Indonesia has started a probe into a major corruption case involving current and former ministers as well as other high-ranking politicians.
In an indictment released on Thursday, the special anti-corruption court in Jakarta implicated high-profile figures, including Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, former interior minister Gamawan Fauzi, Parliamentary Speaker Setya Novanto and other prominent lawmakers.
The officials and politicians are accused of receiving kickbacks. The case alleges that huge amounts of money were drawn off from funds that the Indonesia Parliament had earmarked for a government project to issue new ID cards to Indonesia’s 255 million inhabitants.
The entire scandal, which allegedly took place from 2009 to 2015, is believed to have sucked about USD 170 million out of government coffers. The budget dedicated for the ID card scheme was about USD 370 million.
In its first session of the trial, the court heard testimonies from one current Interior Ministry official and one former official from the same department. Some of the people named in the indictment have denied the court allegations.
The seriousness of the case has taken many by surprise even in Indonesia, a country known for its high corruption cases.
Tama Langkun of Indonesian Corruption Watch, an NGO monitoring and reporting incidents of corruption in the Southeast Asian country, said the case reflected the lax mechanism which allowed people to seek benefits from the very beginning of lawmaking and budgeting processes.
"This is horrendous because the allegations highlight corruption in procurement and the budgeting process in parliament," Langkun said.
Indonesia was ranked 90th out of 176 countries in the Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index last year. A lower ranking in the index represents higher frequency of corrupt cases in a state.