Minister Edhy’s Glamourous Bribes
Some of the kickbacks related to the export of lobster larvae allegedly paid to the former minister of maritime affairs and fisheries are believed to have been passed on to his associates. Investigation should not stop with Edhy Prabowo.
THE Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) should also use the Money Laundering Law to investigate the flows of bribery funds for the export of lobster larvae allegedly paid to former minister of maritime affairs and fisheries Edhy Prabowo. The naming of suspects must not stop with Edhy, his special staff and employees of the maritime affairs and fisheries ministry. It is strongly suspected that money was also passed on to Edhy’s close friends and senior officials of his political party, Gerindra.
The investigation of this case will test the commitment of Joko Widodo’s administration to the eradication of corruption. Last year, KPK’s room to maneuver was limited by the government and the House of Representatives through revisions to the KPK Law. This secret operation by KPK investigators deserves appreciation.
Despite this, the continuation of the investigation is highly dependent on the wishes of KPK Chairman Firli Bahuri, an antagonist whose independence has been questioned. Furthermore, because of the revised law, the KPK is now an institution underneath the executive. The statement by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan that the KPK should not go too far in its investigation of Edhy is a sign that this case will not be expanded too widely.
So far, investigators have detained Suharjito, director of Dua Putra Perkasa, who is accused of paying kickbacks to Edhy and employees at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. However, there are still 43 other companies alleged to have contributed to the bribes. This reinforces suspicions that Edhy did not act alone. There are indications that the money resulting from this rent seeking was also enjoyed by the politicians backing Edhy.
Edhy is suspected to have used the money from lobster larvae exporting companies to fund a luxurious lifestyle. He seems to have bought cars, apartments and other expensive items for family members. The KPK arrested Edhy when he returned home from Hawaii, United States. In Honolulu, Edhy is said to have bought a Rolex watch and Tummi and Luis Vuitton bags using bribe money.
This glamorous lifestyle funded by corruption and the corruption itself are two sides of the same coin. In every case investigated by the KPK, the perpetrators have used bribe money to pay for excessive lifestyles. Every time there is an arrest, investigators find luxury goods bought using bribes. Almost every month, the KPK auctions goods that it has seized.
The obligation to report assets is not yet an effective way to prevent this conduct by officials. Although government officials are obliged to complete a state official assets report, there are no clear punishments for those who neglect to do so. Even these reports are often written to give the impression that the official is not wealthy.
A number of institutions have tried to prevent corruption by forbidding their staff to have luxurious lifestyles, including displaying their wealth to the public. For example, the National Police Headquarters last year issued a regulation banning personnel from showing off luxurious lifestyles, especially on social media. But we know that this regulation was just empty words. Not exhibiting wealth is one thing, while obtaining it illegally is another. It is possible there is no connection at all between the two. In other words, this regulation was nothing more than window dressing to give the impression that the police care about the eradication of corruption.
Of course, corruption will only be eradicated through enforcement of the law. However, it does not hurts if ministers in Indonesia learn from the nation’s founding fathers such as Mohammad Hatta, who lived a simple life despite being a former vice-president, and Haji Agus Salim, who never owned a house of his own despite having served as foreign affairs minister.