Agriculture Minister Still Witness in Beef Import Scandal
Agriculture Minister Suswono is still a witness in an alleged bribery scandal for the issuance of a beef import permit in the Ministry of Agriculture, anti-graft commission chief Abraham Samad said.
“The minister’s status in the case is still as a witness. We hope we could summon him next week,” Chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said here.
The KPK has named suspect former president of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq in this case.
The KPK chairman indicated that Luthfi Hasan Ishaad had exerted his influence on the ministry of agriculture so that ministry would issue a quota for a certain company on the importation of beef into the country.
“The minister is needed to explain facts on the chronology of the case,” Abraham said. Minister Suswono is a cadre of PKS.
He said however that there was no guarantee that a witness would not turn into a suspect.
“It is all possible. If we find two pieces of evidence, then all can become suspects,” he added.
Abraham denied if it was said that there had been official tape recording on conversions about the beef quota between Luthfi Hasan and Suswono.
“I want to make clear that we have never given official explanations if we have wiretapped conversations between the minister and Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq because wiretapping is part of investigation that could not be made public. It could only be heard publicly at the request of judges,” the KPK chairman said.
KPK Deputy Chief Zulkarnain said meanwhile that KPK would conduct investigation at the ministry of agriculture regarding the case because the ministry of agriculture had the authority to issue permit on the importation of beef.
“We will make investigation starting from the aspect of authority, where the was a quota of for the importation of 80 thousand tons of beef – consisting of live cattle and beef,” he said.
He said that KPK had also officially banned three persons from traveling abroad with regard to the case. The three persons are Soraya Kusuma Effendi, a commissioner of PT Indoguna Utama, Maria Elisabeth Liman, president director of PT Indoguna Utama and Denny P Adiningrat.
The KPK has earlier arrested Juard Effendi, Arya Abdi Effendi (both are directors of beef importer PT Indoguna Utama), Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq (a lawmaker and president of the Prosperous Justice Party /PKS) and his close friend Ahmad Fathanah.
The anti-graft body also confiscated as evidence a cash of Rp1 billion, put in black crinkle paper bag. The money was a down payment of a commitment fee worth Rp40 billion pledged for the issuance of a permit to import 8,000 tons of beef by PT Indoguna Utama.
Juard dan Arya were arrested by the KPK on Tuesday (Jan 29) at Arya’s house in Cakung, East Jakarta after handing over Rp1 billion to Ahmad Fathanah at the PT Indoguna Utama building. Ahmad Fathanah himself was arrested at Le Meredien Hotel in Jakarta.
KPK spokesman Johan Budi said KPK had evidence the money was to be given to Luthfi, who denied the allegation. Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq officially announced his resignation two days after his arrest on graft charges.
In a press conference Luthfi said,” it is part of political struggle. PKS must continue to grow with or without me.” “I am just facing a legal case and I would certainly need time to follow the process to prove whether or not I am guilty and this problem will be part of PKS’ struggle,” he said.Filed under: The Nation