Indonesia police name anti-graft agency chief as suspect in extortion case

JAKARTA (Reuters) -Indonesia’s police have named the chief of the anti-corruption agency as a suspect in an extortion case involving an ex-minister who was detained last month on graft charges.

Firli Bahuri, who heads the Corruption Eradication Commission, is the latest official in the administration of President Joko Widodo to face graft allegations.

Firli, a former police inspector general, is suspected of extorting money from Syahrul Yasin Limpo, the former agriculture minister who was detained in a corruption case last month, police said in an post on their website.

Ade Safri Simanjuntak, a Jakarta police official, told reporters late on Wednesday there was “sufficient evidence to name … the KPK chief as a suspect in a corruption case in the form of extortion”, adding that a state official extorted money at the agriculture ministry from 2020-2023.

The KPK are the Indonesian initials of the corruption commission.

Authorities had confiscated foreign currency transaction documents from Singapore, and U.S. dollars worth 7.4 billion rupiah ($477,730) from raids at two locations, Ade added. The police did not give further details about the investigation.

Firli did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, he told reporters that he had never been involved in extortion or bribery.

A corruption conviction for state officials carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

According to the law, the president must temporarily suspend any KPK chief named as a criminal suspect, and Widodo said on Thursday he would “respect the process of law” when asked about Firli being named a suspect.

Firli was named the KPK chief in 2019, around the same time critics said changes to the law governing the agency had weakened it, triggering a series of “save the KPK” protests.

Novel Baswedan, a former KPK investigator, told Reuters that Firli is the first KPK chief to be named as a suspect in a graft case. The commission has prosecuted hundreds of politicians, officials, and businessmen since its formation in 2002, becoming one of the country’s most respected agencies.

($1 = 15,490.0000 rupiah)

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Miral Fahmy)