Jakarta — Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked the country’s police and anti-corruption agency to fight graft together, even as the two grapple over which should lead an investigation into alleged corruption within the police force.
The Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its local acronym KPK, and the police have recently launched simultaneous investigations into whether some high-ranking police officers stole from state coffers. While some good-governance advocates hoped the president would ask the police to allow the KPK to take over the investigation—to minimize conflicts of interest—he instead asked the two bodies to get along.
“You two are my champions in our battle against corruption,” Mr. Yudhoyono told the heads of the KPK and the national police in a meeting this week, according to his presidential website. In the police case, the popular KPK named three police officers and two businessmen as suspects in an investigation surrounding the $20 million purchase of 1,200 driving simulators used in driving tests. KPK investigators suspect that the price was marked up, causing the state to overpay by up to 100 billion rupiah ($10.6 million), commission spokesman Johan Budi said.
One of the suspects is Inspector General Djoko Susilo, who was director of the National Police Traffic Corps at the time and has since become the head of the National Police Academy. Mr. Susilo has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
“It’s suspected that Djoko Susilo abused his authority and caused losses to the state,” Mr. Budi told The Wall Street Journal, adding that Mr. Susilo could face five years in prison if found guilty.
Mr. Susilo couldn’t be reached for comment. His lawyer told local media that his client denied receiving any money from the company or abusing his authority.
Last month, KPK investigators raided traffic-corps headquarters to search for evidence. The next day, police announced that they too were investigating the case, setting off speculation among good-governance advocates that the police were seeking to keep the probe from spreading.
“The KPK has the power to investigate the case because it’s a high-profile case that attracts public attention, and there’s a reason to believe that in a police investigation there will be a conflict of interest,” said Todung Mulya Lubis, a lawyer and head of Transparency International Indonesia, an anti-graft watchdog. “The police should leave the case to the KPK.”
The police told The Wall Street Journal they had begun investigating when the KPK started working on the case. They said they were not trying to hinder KPK’s work and planned to work together with the anti-corruption commission.
National police spokesman Boy Rafly Amar denied a conflict of interest, saying police were working professionally in tandem with the KPK. He said under an agreement with the KPK, Mr. Susilo would be questioned by KPK while the other suspects would be handled by the police.
“We continue to coordinate with KPK,” he said. “We respect people’s opinions, but there’s no conflict of interest.”
The KPK was set up in 2003 to fight corruption in a country considered among the world’s more graft-prone. Indonesia ranked 100th out of 183 countries in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, scoring a three on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being cleanest. The 2005 index ranked Indonesia 137th, with a score of 2.2.
The KPK has been widely praised by the public for a series of successful prosecutions of high-profile figures including government ministers, legislators and businesspeople.
This traffic-corps run-in isn’t the first time the KPK and police have collided. In 2009, police arrested two KPK commissioners, Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Riyanto, on charges of abuse of power and extortion. Following a public outcry, they were released and cleared.
Police denied the arrests were aimed at weakening the commission. Mr. Hamzah and Mr. Riyanto denied any wrongdoing.