Corruption Prosecutor Took Bribe: Watchdog

JAKARTA ~ A lead prosecutor investigating billions of dollars in bank bailouts that went missing in the 1990s has been caught taking a massive bribe, an anti-graft official said this week.

Urip Tri Gunawan was caught in a raid holding US$660,000 in cash, said the spokesman for the Corruption Eradication Commission, Johan Budi.

“He was arrested on Sunday evening and is still being questioned at our office. He is now officially a graft suspect,” Budi said.

He declined to give further details, but television footage showed that Gunawan was arrested at one of the homes of Syamsul Nursalim, a banker implicated in the sweeping probe.

Gunawan had been heading an investigation begun in mid-2007 into the misappropriation of funds that targeted Nursalim, but the Attorney’s General Office dropped the probe against the banker last Friday, citing a lack of evidence.

Bank Indonesia, the central bank, doled out almost Rp145 trillion ($16 billion) in bailouts amid the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

But state auditors have found that Rp80.4 trillion, distributed to 48 banks, were embezzled.

Three top Bank Indonesia executives have been jailed but there has been widespread frustration and anger over the perceived lack of progress in the cases, which have seen many bankers let off without charges.

Nursalim’s Bank Dagang Negara Indonesia owes the government a total of Rp30.9 trillion. Bank assets confiscated and sold by the state have only yielded about Rp1.8 trillion.

In dropping the investigation of Nursalim, deputy attorney general Kemas Yahya Rahman said the bank’s inability to repay its debts could be excused due to the economic difficulties that followed the 1997 crisis.

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