Leaving Out the Best Part
Judges acquitted former PLN CEO Sofyan Basir of the charge of conspiring in bribery. The prosecutors were considered failed to present all pertinent evidence available during the trial.
AFTER former PLN chief executive officer (CEO) Sofyan Basir was acquitted by judges of the Jakarta Corruption Court on Monday, November 4, Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Deputy Chairman Saut Situmorang tried to keep up the spirits of the prosecutors. He asked them to study the verdict and then file a cassation. “I believe this verdict does not detract from what the prosecution team has done,” said Saut, on Thursday November 7.
Saut was also the one who insisted from the outset to raise the case to the criminal investigation level last April. According to one law enforcement official, a heated debate took place in the KPK during a case progress review. It was said that one prosecutor disagreed that the case be raised to a criminal investigation. KPK leaders were divided. At that point, Saut purportedly insisted on naming Sofyan a criminal suspect. According to this source, Saut said that if the prosecutor did not want to prosecute the case, then he would personally become the prosecutor.
Saut did not deny that he insisted on pushing the Sofyan case forward. According to him, debating the strength of cases is a healthy tradition, because each person can challenge the case and its supporting evidence. The leaders, investigators and prosecutors are free to voice their assessments. “The KPK Law, before its revision, established that KPK leaders have the authority to be criminal investigators or prosecutors,” he said.
The panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court, led by Hariono, acquitted Sofyan Basir on the charge of bribery related to the Riau-1 Mine Mouth Steam Power Plant construction project. This project was a collaboration between Pembangkit Jawa Bali Investasi, BlackGold Natural Resources Ltd, and China Huadian Engineering Company Ltd. “The defendant Sofyan Basir was not legally and convincingly proven to have committed the violation as stated in the (criminal) charges,” said Hariono in the Corruption Court, on Monday November 4.
One article Sofyan was charged under was Article 12 letter a, in conjunction with Article 15 of the Corruption Eradication Law. In his role as a state executor, he was suspected of receiving a promise of money from businessman Johannes Budisutrisno Kotjo. Johannes was a BlackGold stockholder who was the intermediary for investment cooperation to bring China Huadian Engineering on board that project.
In the charges, the prosecutor said that Sofyan attended a meeting where a bribery agreement was reached between Johannes, former House of Representatives (DPR) energy commission member Eni Maulani Saragih, and former Golkar Party Secretary-General Idrus Marham. The bribery for this project amounted to Rp4.75 billion. Johannes, Eni, and Idrus are in prison. In court, Sofyan admitted to holding two meetings at his house to discuss the project. Testimony and recordings of conversations about this matter were brought up in the trials of others who were charged. However, the judges still acquitted Sofyan.
KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah said that the verdict failed to consider some important evidence during the trial. One was Sofyan’s admission that he knew about monetary transactions connected to the project. Sofyan made that admission during questioning on September 23, though he later withdrew his testimony. “The individual in question knew of the Eni’s interest to find funds for the party,” said Febri on Friday, November 8.
In her testimony, Eni said that Sofyan deserved to receive ‘the best’ share because he had done the most to get the project approved. By ‘the best’ she meant the largest share. According to Eni, Johannes Kotjo made this suggestion to Eni and Sofyan during a meeting at the Fairmont Hotel, Jakarta. “If there is good fortune, the most should go to Sofyan,” said Johannes as imitated by Eni.
However, according to Eni, Sofyan rejected being given a larger share. Sofyan, she said, stated that the ‘good fortune’ would be divided equally among the three of them. “Sofyan said, ‘No, alright, then later we will divide it into three equal parts’,” said Eni.
When asked again about that meeting and Sofyan’s role in the Riau-1 PLTU project, Eni said that all of her testimony had been given in court. “I have explained everything,” she said in early November.
“The individual in question knew of the Eni’s interest to find funds for the party.”
— KPK Spokesman, Febri Diansyah
Sofyan’s acquittal led Iqbal Damanik—a mining and energy researcher at the Auriga Nusantara Foundation who kept tabs on the progress of the trial in this case—questions the prosecutor’s role. He feels that the charges failed to stick because the prosecutor did not focus on presenting evidence of Sofyan’s involvement. During the trial, said Iqbal, the prosecutor tended to focus more on the electricity purchase agreement. “He should have gone deeper into the meetings between Sofyan and those who have been convicted,” he said.
Pahrozi, Eni’s lawyer, said that the bribery was not limited to a giver and receiver, but extended to the greatest beneficiary of the project. According to him, Eni was just an intermediary, while the greatest beneficiary was PLN. “The recordings of conversations about the case should also have been used as an indicator,” he said on Tuesday, November 5.
According to Pahrozi, the judges should have taken the nine meetings between Eni, Johannes, Idrus, and former Golkar Party General Chairman Setya Novanto—which took place from 2015-2018 to discuss the Riau-1 PLTU project—as an indicator. One convincing piece of evidence was admission of Johannes in the questioning file, which was read during the trial of Idrus Marham on last February 19.
During that court hearing, the prosecutor confirmed Johannes’ admission regarding the names of the individuals who would likely receive commissions. “That gift refers to what I would give to Sofyan Basir. I would prepare it. However, I had not yet thought about the amount,” said Johannes at that time. This became a strong reason for the KPK to name Sofyan a suspect.
Sofyan’s lawyer, Soesilo Ariwibowo, considers the acquittal to be correct. He verified the news that Sofyan met repeatedly with Eni, Johannes, and Idrus to discuss the cooperation arrangements for the Riau-1 PLTU project. Those meetings were held to ensure the viability of projects at PLN, but was not connected to suspected bribery as was accused by the KPK. “No agreements were reached in those meetings which were corrupt in nature,” he said.
Soesilo feels that the recorded conversations from the previous trial cannot be used as evidence to implicate his client. This is because the authenticity of those recordings was never confirmed through digital forensic analysis. He respects the KPK’s plan to file a cassation with the Supreme Court (MA). According to Soesilo, the matter of proving the authenticity of the recordings is no longer relevant. “The MA’s authority is more to the application of the law,” he said.
The KPK has confirmed that it will file for a cassation appeal. According to Febri Diansyah, the facts to be included in the appeal include Sofyan’s initial admission and Eni Saragih’s testimony regarding Sofyan, who was considered to be aware of the bribery. “This ponit will be explained further in the appeal to the MA,” he said.
RIKY FERDIANTO, ROSSENO AJI