Indonesia awaits US report on slain corruption witness – is this the long arm of Indonesia’s BIN secret service in play here?
Businessman killed in Los Angeles had been due to give evidence against politicians in graft case
Anti-corruption investigators are waiting to hear from U.S. police about the death of a key witness. Businessman Johannes Marliem was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head at his home in Los Angeles on Thursday.
He was a witness in a multi-million-dollar corruption case involving senior politicians, including Parliamentary Speaker Setya Novanto, who also leads Indonesia's second-biggest political party Golkar.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told Anadolu Agency that it was waiting for police in California to deliver information about Marliem’s death.
“The party that has the right to decide is the U.S. police,” he said. “We are waiting for information from them.”
Saut Situmorang, deputy head of the Corruption Eradication Commission, said Marliem’s death was important “because he has something to do with the case we are dealing with.”
Marliem was the director of Biomorf, a U.S.-based biometrics company, that was awarded the contract to supply an automated fingerprint system for a national electronic ID card program launched in 2011.
According to investigators, around half of the project’s 5.8 trillion Indonesian rupiah ($434 million) budget was divided between 37 suspects, including Novanto and 23 other members of the House of Representatives.
Fear for life
The scam is said to have cost the state around $190 million in losses.
Novanto was described by U.S. President Donald Trump as “one of the powerful men and a great man” during a news conference at Trump Tower during his presidential campaign.
He was temporarily forced to step down over corruption allegations in 2015 after he was heard seeking a $4 billion payment from a U.S. mining company.
Prosecutors have revealed that Marliem paid a $200,000 as a bribe to Sugiharto, a former senior Home Ministry official who has been jailed for five years in the case.
Alongside Novanto, two former high-ranking members of the then ruling Democratic Party, Anas Urbaningrum and Muhammad Nazaruddin, have also been named as key suspects in the case. It is believed they may have influenced lawmakers to pass the project’s budget.
Days before his death, Marliem had told the Kontan newspaper that he feared for his life. “I do not want to be published as a witness,” he said. “It could be my life is now threatened.”
In the interview, Marliem also denied having given bribes to Sugiharto.
In its 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International ranked Indonesia 88 out of 168 countries. President Joko Widodo has stressed his commitment to eradicating corruption.