Prosecutors Seek Jail for Bribe Case Businesswoman

JAKARTA ~ Prosecutors sought a five-year jail term this week for a businesswoman accused of bribing an investigator to the tune of US$660,000 to drop a major embezzlement case.

Chief prosecutor Sarjono Turin said Artalyta Suryani had been “convincingly” shown to have bribed Urip Tri Gunawan, a senior prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) who was in charge of the embezzlement probe.

Suryani allegedly bribed Gunawan to drop his investigation into Sjamsul Nursalim, who is accused of embezzling some $3 billion in emergency bail-out loans to his bank during the Asian financial crisis in 1998.

Secretly taped conversations between the businesswoman, a close associate of the fugitive banker, and the prosecutor have been played during Suryani’s trial and fanned headlines of widespread corruption in the AGO.

Turin recommended the anti-corruption court sentence Suryani to five years’ imprisonment and order her to pay a Rp250-million ($27,000) fine.

Gunawan was arrested in March as he left Nursalim’s home in Jakarta with $660,000 in cash, just days after the attorney general had dropped the 10-year investigation into the banker citing a lack of evidence.

The businesswoman argued that the money was a personal loan from her to help Gunawan start a car wash business.

“During the 41 telephone conversation and several meetings between the defendant and Urip Tri Gunawan, there was never any mention of business,” another prosecutor in the case, John Sitompul, said.

The trial will continue on July 14. Gunawan, one of four prosecutors sacked or demoted over the affair, is standing trial separately.

Gunawan is the first prosecutor to be charged in the corruption scandal that has led to calls for the resignation of Attorney General Hendarman Supandji.

The case goes to the heart of whether Indonesia is capable of shaking its reputation as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and whether those who plundered billions from state coffers in the 1990s will ever face justice.

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