KPK Turns the Screw on Former SKKMigas Head

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Indonesia’s antigraft body intensified its investigation into the disgraced head of upstream oil and gas regulator SKKMigas, adding an additional charge of money laundering to the growing docket of Rudi Rubiandini, a Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) official said on Thursday.

“After investigating the corruption allegations… the investigators found indications and initial evidence of money laundering [on the part of] the suspect,” said KPK spokesman Johan Budi. “The decision was made on Nov. 12, 2013.”

The little-used law, which was filed in addition to corruption charges, will allow the KPK to track down Rudi’s assets, providing a clearer picture of the level of alleged graft to run through the office of the nation’s authority on the oil and gas industry. The increasingly bold KPK has made quick use of the money-laundering law in recent months, compiling a Rp 200 billion ($18 million) list of assets owned by Djoko Susilo, a corrupt two-star police general, and filing charges against dismissed Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar.

It’s one of the strongest weapons in the KPK’s arsenal and one that has been championed as a significant step in the fight against graft in a nation ranked as one of the most corrupt places on earth.

Rudi stands accused of accepting more than $1 million in cash from the directors of the Singapore-based Kernel Oil in a bid by the company to buy its way into Indonesia’s oil and gas industry. Four people, including two directors of Kernel Oil and a golf trainer, have been charged in connection with the case. The defense insists that Deviardi, the golf pro, owned the money and merely gave it to Widodo Ratanachaitong, of Kernel Oil, for safe keeping.

Deviardi, defense attorneys said, needed to get the funds into Indonesia and was concerned that immigration officials would be suspicious after finding hundreds of thousands of dollars in the luggage of a golf trainer.

The KPK has pushed ahead regardless, seizing assets owned by Rudi — including cash and a house in Tebet, South Jakarta — as it prepared to hand the case over to the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court. The former SKKMigas head faces 20 years in prison and Rp 1 billion ($86,700) fines if convicted.

The case cast doubt on Indonesia’s reportedly murky oil and gas industry as the head of the nation’s regulatory body was detained months after the court jailed several executives with Chevron Pacific Indonesia on corruption charges in a case few officials — including those involved in the graft-tainted project — called corruption.

Indonesia has struggled to curb corruption in a nation where payoffs and bribes are common at all levels of society. In the past year, the head of the Constitutional Court, several ranking members of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s ruling party and high-ranking police officers have been implicated in graft cases.

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