TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - All the hard work the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has put in the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) graft case is now on the brink of going up in smoke. Following the cassation hearing, the Supreme Court on July 9 acquitted Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung, the former chairman of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, who was previously convicted for issuing debt settlement letters in the BLBI graft case.
The KPK probed the case since 2013 and only got its break two years ago. Syafruddin was later charged for colluding with businessman Sjamsul Nursalam and his wife, Itjih Nursalim, to commit corruption that caused Rp4.58 trillion in state losses and sentenced to 13 years in prison and fined Rp700 million by the Corruption Court last year. At appeal, the Jakarta High Court extended his sentence to 15 years and increased the fine to Rp1 billion. Sjamsul, meanwhile, became a suspect last June.
Everything went haywire at appeal at the Supreme Court. The three judges of the cassation panel came up with different opinions. One declared Syafruddin guilty of corruption, another called his act a civil offense and the other called it an administrative violation. “This is the first time in the Supreme Court’s history, such a scenario occurred,” said KPK’s Deputy Chairman, Laode Muhammad Syarif, 54, during a special interview with Tempo.
While pointing out many oddities surrounding the verdict: starting from the unprofessional language, its issuance that came precisely on the last day of the defendant’s detention, to the unprecedented conclusions of the judges, Laode said, “We hope that the Supreme Court would not offend the people’s sense of justice.”
Last Thursday night, Laode received Tempo’s Sapto Yunus, Anton Aprianto, Mustafa Silalahi, Reza Maulana and Maya Ayu Puspitasari, at the KPK building in South Jakarta. During the interview which was interspersed with off-the-record remarks, he also talked about graft cases involving regional heads, the wire-tapping draft bill and the selection of new KPK leaders
What do you think of the Supreme Court’s verdict that granted Syafruddin Temenggung’s appeal?
Strange. The Supreme Court said our charges were proven but the act was not criminal but just a civil or an administrative violation. We don’t think so. It is a criminal violation because there are state losses involved and the act violated the law. For example, A owed Rp100,000, to B. To settle the debt, A paid with two items which were only worth Rp30,000, in total. There is a criminal element. Abusing his position, SAT (Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung) wrote off the debt and benefitted the other party. His action meets the criteria to be categorized as criminal corruption.
The Supreme Court said Syafruddin was only carrying out the policy.
He knew that the repaid amount did not match the total debt. He clearly knew the calculations. Why did he issue the settlement letter? Even the assets used to pay the debt were not free of problems.
Did the KPK not consider that from the beginning?
We did. We even challenged that in the pre-trial material two years ago. From the procedural aspect, SAT’s side considered it as a civil case but the pre-trial confirmed it was a criminal act. From the material aspect, the first level court declared that SAT was eligible to be tried for criminal corruption and eventually sentenced him to 13 years. He lost the appeal against the conviction and his sentence was even extended to 15 years.
The three judges reached three different verdicts. What is your opinion?
That scenario is the exact opposite of the previous verdicts which were reached without dissenting opinions. All unanimous at the pre-trial, the state court and the high court. Only at the Supreme Court, the panel ended with three different opinions. One judge was in agreement with the previous ruling declaring the case as criminal, the second said it was a civil offense and the third said it was an administrative violation. It means, each judge gave 30 percent vote and there was no solid conclusion. This is the first time in the Supreme Court’s history, such a situation occurred.
Why was the criminal verdict thrown out?
Because the choice is between criminal and non-criminal. The majority said it was not criminal even though the majority has different outcomes. This is unusual.
Did the KPK anticipate such an outcome?
We held a press conference the day before to announce that SAT’s detention period would end at 12 midnight on July 9. We did not want to be accused of arbitrary detention and hoped that the Supreme Court would issue the ruling soon. It turned out; the court announced the verdict on the very same day. That was also unusual because usually, the verdict would come out a few days before the detention period ends. Well, this verdict came right on the last day.
What is the basis of your suspicion?
It seemed the verdict was hastily issued. Even the language was odd and all over the places. It read, for example, “released the defendant therefore from all the charges.”
Did the KPK monitor the three chief justices?
We never monitor judges. We respect their profession.
What was the first thing the KPK do after the verdict was announced?
One hour after their press conference, we asked the prosecutor, the director of the prosecution, the chief of the legal bureau, the acting deputy for prosecution and the public relation bureau to meet. Pak Agus (Raharjo) and Pak Alex (Marwata) were away at that time. We asked for an update and explanation about the verdict.
Did the meeting also discuss further legal steps?
We did discuss the options but I can’t say for sure because I have to read the complete verdict first. Now we only have the excerpt from the Supreme Court so we don’t know our legal options yet.
Do the options also include judicial review?
Once again, we’re waiting for the complete verdict from the Supreme Court. God willing, we will determine our stance in the next couple of weeks. You will get the news.
Is it possible for the KPK to take the case to civil court for the sake of recouping the state losses?
We cannot file civil suits. The prosecution has that right.
Will the Supreme Court’s verdict affect the BLBI case?
Yes. The case has so many obstacles. SJN (Sjamsul Nursalim) fled overseas. If he is not guilty or if the case is a civil case and so on, he didn’t have to flee. Second, SJN challenged the Supreme Audit Agency’s audit result and the case is being heard at the Tangerang District Court. This is a mammoth case. Big trees catch strong winds.
Read the full interview in Tempo English Magazine