Indonesia parliament speaker taken into custody by anti-graft agency

This file photo taken on November 19, 2015 shows Indonesian parliament speaker Setya Novanto during an official function at the parliament in Jakarta. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Indonesia parliament speaker taken into custody by anti-graft agency

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s parliament speaker Setya Novanto has been taken into custody by the country’s anti-corruption agency after being arrested over his alleged role in causing state losses of $170 million linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.
Novanto, wearing an orange vest worn by detainees of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), was transferred from a hospital on Sunday night into a KPK detention facility at its headquarters in Jakarta.
He is one of the most senior politicians in Indonesia to be detained by the independent KPK.
The parliament speaker was arrested on Friday night but KPK said it delayed enforcing his detention while he received treatment for injuries sustained in a car crash the day before.
Laode Muhammad Syarif, deputy head of the KPK, said in a video posted on the agency’s official Periscope page that a doctor’s statement showed Novanto no longer needed to be treated in hospital “therefore according to standards and procedure the delay of the arrest is no longer needed.”
In comments made to reporters on Sunday night, Novanto said he was still suffering from vertigo after the crash that he said had caused injuries to his leg, arm and head.
“I did not expect this (to happen) tonight. I thought I would be given time for recovery, but I obey the law,” Novanto was quoted by Kumparan.com as saying.
Officers from KPK tried to arrest Novanto, the chairman of Golkar, Indonesia’s second-largest party and partner in the ruling coalition, at his house in Jakarta late on Wednesday.
But the investigators, watched by television cameras, failed to find him, sparking speculation that he had gone into hiding.
Later, Novanto was involved in a car accident and his lawyer, Fredrich Yunadi, said a journalist was driving the vehicle and interviewing his client at the time of the accident.
Novanto has denied wrongdoing but has repeatedly missed summonses from the KPK for questioning in recent months, saying he was ill and needed to undergo heart surgery.
The KPK is investigating state losses amounting to about $170 million linked to a national electronic identity card scheme after allegations that sums ranging from $5,000 to $5.5 million — generated by marking up procurement costs — were divided up among politicians in parliament.
Novanto was named a suspect on Nov. 10 again after he had used a controversial legal maneuver, a pre-trial motion, to get earlier charges dropped last month.
Novanto’s lawyer has said a request for another pre-trial motion had been filed on behalf of his client.
The house speaker gained a measure of international fame in September 2015 when then US presidential candidate Donald Trump hailed the Indonesian politician as a “great man” during a news conference.
“Do they like me in Indonesia?” Trump asked after introducing Novanto to reporters at Trump Tower.
“Yes, highly,” Novanto replied.
Indonesians have been gripped by the drama around the case with newspapers splashing the story across their front page and circulating memes mocking Novanto.
Despite repeated efforts by politicians and police to undermine it, the KPK has remained one of Southeast Asia’s most effective and independent agencies. It investigated 91 people last year, a record in its 15-year history, data provided by the agency showed.


EU leaders meeting to endorse Brexit divorce deal

Updated 4 min 40 sec ago
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EU leaders meeting to endorse Brexit divorce deal

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said the deal was the best the world’s fifth-largest economy could hope for

BRUSSELS/LONDON: European Union leaders will meet on Nov. 25 to endorse a Brexit divorce deal but British Prime Minister Theresa May was mauled by opponents, allies and mutinous members of her party who warned the agreement could sink her premiership.
May won the backing of her senior ministers after a five-hour meeting on Wednesday though she now faces the much more perilous struggle of getting parliament, which has the final say, to approve the agreement.
It is unclear when that vote might happen.
“If nothing extraordinary happens, we will hold a European Council meeting in order to finalize and formalize the Brexit agreement,” European Council President Donald Tusk said after meeting EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
More than two years after the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the EU, May said the deal was the best the world’s fifth-largest economy could hope for and that the other options were leaving with no deal or thwarting Brexit.
But in a sign of just how hard the vote in the British parliament might be, Shailesh Vara, who backed EU membership in the 2016 referendum, quit on Thursday as a junior minister in May’s government.
“I cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement that has been agreed with the European Union,” Vara said as he resigned as a Northern Ireland minister.
“We are a proud nation and it is a sad day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown they do not have our best interests at heart. We can and must do better than this.”
Nick Timothy, one of May’s former chiefs of staff, said her deal was a capitulation that parliament would reject.
“When parliament rejects the prime minister’s proposal, as surely it will, there will still be time for ministers to negotiate something better,” Timothy wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Timothy, who resigned after May’s botched gamble on a snap election that lost her party its majority in parliament, said Britain should use its security contribution as a bargaining chip to get a better deal.
May will give a statement to parliament on Thursday on the deal which she hopes will satisfy both Brexit voters and EU supporters by ensuring close ties with the bloc after Britain leaves on March 29.
The ultimate outcome for the United Kingdom remains uncertain: scenarios range from a calm divorce to rejection of May’s deal, potentially sinking her premiership and leaving the bloc with no agreement, or another referendum.
Getting a deal through parliament will be difficult. She will need the votes of about 320 of the 650 lawmakers.
“The parliamentary arithmetic has looked tight for some time,” Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients. “It now looks tighter, given signs of greater unity among those who object to the draft Agreement.”
“We’re in the Brexs**t — Theresa May’s soft Brexit deal blasted by ALL sides,” read the headline in The Sun, Britain’s best-read newspaper.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which props up May’s government, said it would not back any deal that treated the British province differently from the rest of the United Kingdom.