A former Indonesian lawmaker has returned after three months as a fugitive to face corruption charges in a case that has riveted the nation and tested its reputation in fighting graft.
Former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin was captured last week in Colombia after fleeing Indonesia three months ago. He has denied charges that he accepted US$3 million in bribes from a company contracted to build an athletes’ village for this year’s Southeast Asian Games.
Before his extradition, Nazaruddin called local newspapers and TV news stations to say he was ready to expose corruption elsewhere within the governing party.
The case — which underlines Indonesia’s challenge in changing its graft-ridden image — has threatened the credibility of the party’s founder, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose 2009 re-election campaign presented him as the “Mr Clean” of Indonesian politics.
Hundreds of people have been arrested for alleged corruption since Yudhoyono took office, though critics say high-ranking officials have largely been left alone.
Nazaruddin was immediately taken into custody on Saturday after landing in Jakarta on a flight from Bogota, the Anti-Corruption Commission said.
The president has ordered that Nazaruddin receive full protection while authorities investigate the Games scandal. No trial date has been set.