According to The Jakarta Post, there is more fallout from the Akil Mochtar scandal late last year. This time, allegations have arisen that KPK Deputy Chair Bambang Widjojanto asked Akil Mochtar for help getting appointed to the KPK. Read the whole article here.
Category Archives: Akil Mochtar
Talking with several experts and activists these past few weeks, it’s clear that many are disappointed in the corruption scandal involving former Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) chief justice Akil Mochtar. Many are also disappointed that the court has not taken more aggressive measures to establish an independent ethics committee.
However, on Thursday (coincidentally, two days after I’d visited the MK library), public expressions of discontent with the MK reached a new phase as supporters of a party in a Maluku local election dispute stormed the MK building. According to The Jakarta Post, several shouted “the MK is a thief” because their favored candidate lost.
Increasingly, I hear people raising questions about the appropriate role for the MK in deciding local elections disputes. Most people I’ve met still think the MK will provide the fairest adjudication of cases, but it’s far from clear if retaining jurisdiction over the cases is good for the MK. Many seem to think that whichever institution is tasked with deciding these disputes will suffer, either from corruption, an overflowing docket, or popular anger. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions and there seems to be little appetite for the large-scale institutional reform that would be necessary to create a separate court for local elections disputes.
The Akil-gate scandal involving former Constitutional Court justice Akil Mochtar just became an order of magnitude more serious as the Financial Transaction Report and Analysis Center (PPATK) found US $8.9 (Rp. 100 billion) in wire transfers in Akil’s account. According to The Jakarta Post, there are now suspicions that Akil was engaged in money laundering and that corruption might have tainted many more elections cases. Meanwhile, Indonesia Corruption Watch is calling for a more exhaustive probe into Akil’s wealth.
What’s particularly worrying about all of these reservations is that it becomes much harder for the Constitutional Court as a whole to plausibly deny and knowledge of Akil’s activities. A single bribe can be hidden quite easily, but it appears that Akil’s activities likely generated a completely different lifestyle for the former chief justice. Why did his activities and behavior not raise suspicions earlier? I suspect Indonesians will increasingly be asking themselves those questions.
|Partly corrupt or corrupt impartiality?|
Well, after all of that drama, it turns out that the person who allegedly bribed Akil Mochtar won his case before the Constitutional Court after all. According to The Jakarta Post, the MK ruled that Gunung Mas Regent Hambit Bintih did not engage in systematic fraud during the election. Obviously, given the corruption charges against Akil, many will be suspicious of this outcome.
However, it wouldn’t be the first time a judge solicited money for a decision that he had already decided. Judges can abuse the information asymmetry that exists between the bench and the litigants to encourage parties engage in bidding to ensure their victory. (Nick Cheesman has written quite a bit about this type of corruption in Myanmar)
Or, as Sir Francis Bacon famously said, “I usually accept bribes from both sides so that tainted money can never influence my decision.”
According to The Jakarta Post, Akil Mochtar has resigned as chief justice of the Mahmakah Konstitusi. It is unclear if he has completely resigned from the court or just the chief justiceship, but the writing is on the wall.
Lembaga Survei Indonesia has some survey data about the toll Akil Mochtar’s arrest has taken on the MK’s reputation. While survey data about the MK are sparse, previously the court’s approval rating had been relatively high (even including the fact that many respondents reported not knowing enough to form a judgment). According to LSI’s most recent survey, only 28% of the public had faith in the MK and believed it still served as a bastion of the rule of law in Indonesia. What is perhaps more surprising is that almost all respondents had an opinion. 66.5% said they no longer look to the MK as bastion of law enforcement, meaning that only 5.5% of respondents reported not knowing enough to respond. The public is clearly aware of the scandal and paying attention.
President SBY meanwhile has proposed reforms to the appointment procedure for judges. While the MK justices might resist – not without reason – I suspect the political pressure on the justices will be too great. Back in 2011, the MK did invalidate legislation that would have circumscribed its jurisdiction, but the MK had very high levels of public trust back then and stakeholders amongst civil society who saw it as an example of good governance. With this most recent scandal, however, I worry the MK will find fewer allies on its side. As such, it is especially important for the president and DPR to consider any reforms carefully before attempting to force them on the court.
As if a bribery scandal were not enough, according to The Jakarta Globe the KPK now claims to have found marijuana and ecstasy in Akil Mochtar’s office in the Constitutional Court.
There are also more reactions, as Mahfud calls on Akil to resign and Indonesian Corruption Watch urges the KPK to widen its investigation to other allegations of corruption against Akil. President SBY said in a statement that the scandal is even more serious because it potentially means that some Constitutional Court decisions were wrongly decided, and given that decisions are final and binding they would interfere with the democratic process.
Back in April, I posted news about Akil Mochtar’s election to the chief justiceship of the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi). I had mentioned that a few years ago Justice Akil was accused of bribery in a district elections case from North Sumatra. I had speculated that while Chief Justice Akil was cleared of all charges, the allegations might taint his term.
Apparently, corruption has come back to Chief Justice Akil. According to The Jakarta Post, the chief justice was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) over bribery charges earlier today in connection to a dispute regarding the Gunung Mas Regency elections. The KPK says it seized Rp. 3 million from Akil Mochtar’s house and also arrested several other lawmakers.
Obviously, this incident could have huge implications for the MK. Up until now, the MK has had a relatively clean reputation. I suspect this news will shatter that image and disappoint many Indonesian anticorruption activists. Senior Advisor on Governance in Justice Partnership (Partnership), Laode M Sharif – my former colleague at the Asia Foundation in Jakarta – expressed his surprise and disappointment. I expect more to come.
More important than the immediate reaction will be how the rest of the MK handles the scandal. Will the justices be able to decide on a public relations strategy? Will the abandon Mochtar or stick with him? Will the MK wait until the KPK formally charges Mochtar? Until the end of the trial?
This is the beginning of a new era for the MK. I’m heading to Indonesia soon and will hopefully learn more while I’m there.
UPDATE (03 October 2013):
The Jakarta Globe reports more reactions to the news of Akil Mochtar’s arrest. The condemnation has been widespread. Former MK Chief Justice Jimly has allegedly suggested the death penalty would have a strong deterrent effect against corruption. Former Chief Justice Mahfud MD has said publicly that Akil Mochtar should cooperate with the investigation. Also reports coming out tomorrow explain the charges levied against Akil Mochtar.
According to Viva News, the MK has already recommended suspending Akil Mochtar and assigned his cases to other justices. Significantly, it appears that, while they have not embraced him, the other justices have not tried to defend him. According to Deputy Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva, the MK will also launch an internal investigation.