Thursday, November 20, 2008

AGO may let Yusril off the hook

With much publicity surrounding the possible ensnarement of former justice and human rights minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra in a Rp 400 billion (US$33.9 million) graft case at the ministry, prosecutors are now scrutinizing three of his former aides.

The Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it would focus on completing the dossiers on the three former officials who have been named suspects in the case, by finding more incriminating evidence, including Yusril’s account.

The AGO has named the ministry’s former director general for public legal administration Romli Atmasasmita and his two successors Syamsuddin Manan Sinaga and Zulkarnain Yunus suspects in the case.

Prosecutors will question Yusril on Thursday and his successor Hamid Awaluddin on Friday.

“We need to question Pak Yusril again as a witness to gather more evidence. We also need testimony from Pak Hamid. We are still considering whether to summon Pak Andi,” AGO spokesman Jasman Pandjaitan said, referring to current justice minister Andi Mattalata.

Jasman said summonses had been sent to Yusril and Hamid, the current Indonesian ambassador to Russia.

Yusril confirmed he had received the summons and was ready for a second round of questioning.

“I was only asked as a witness against the three suspects. The questions were not about me,” he said.

Legal expert Irman Putra Sidin said the AGO was focusing on the three suspects because of the difficulty in proving Yusril’s decisions to appoint PT Sarana Rekatama Dinamika (SRD) and
activate the website, which is at the heart of the scandal, were illegal.

Ninety percent of the website’s revenue went to SRD, with the rest going to the ministry. Of the latter’s share, 40 percent went to it’s cooperatives.

“I think the prosecutors can easily see that the three former director generals and their family members benefited from the 10 percent revenue,” Irman said.

He added that unless Yusril received kickbacks from the company in return for approving the revenue-sharing scheme, the AGO would find it difficult to implicate the former minister.

University of Indonesia legal expert Rudy Satrio expressed similar sentiments, saying Yusril’s defense would be to point out there was no loss of state money in the project, and that revenue from the project was not non-tax revenue for the state.

“There are no regulations requiring the money to be submitted to the state as non-tax revenue,” he added.

However, prominent lawyer Yozua Makes argued the AGO could still implicate Yusril if it focused on the substance of the case: alleged abuse of state facilities by the ex-minister.

“The website would not have operated without the minister’s authority to issue a permit. So it is a state facility, and income earned from it is state revenue,” he said.

Yozua added the AGO should question the rationale behind the 90:10 revenue-sharing split. Abdul Khalik

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