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.


Fury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims

Updated 52 min 9 sec ago
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Fury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims

  • The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country
  • According to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part in the state funeral, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend

GENOA: Grieving relatives wept over the coffins of dozens of victims of Genoa’s bridge disaster Friday amid growing fury over a planned state funeral, while rescuers pressed on with their tireless search for those missing in the rubble.
The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country, with Italian media reporting that some outraged families would shun Saturday’s official ceremonies.
Italy’s government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the tragedy and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts, while the country’s creaking infrastructure has come under fresh scrutiny.
Authorities plan a state funeral service on Saturday at a hall in Genoa, coinciding with a day of mourning.
Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins, many adorned with flowers and photographs of the dead.
But according to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend.
“It is the state who has provoked this; let them not show their faces, the parade of politicians is shameful,” the press cited the mother of one of four young Italians from Naples who died.
The father of another of the dead from Naples took to social media to vent his anger.
“My son will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures,” said his grieving father, Roberto.
“We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home.”
Despite fading hopes of finding survivors, rescue workers said they had not given up as they resumed the dangerous operation to search through the unstable mountains of debris.
“Is there anyone there? Is there anyone there?” one firefighter shouted into a cavity dug out of the piles of concrete and twisted metal, in a video published by the emergency services.
Between 10 and 20 people are still missing, according to Genoa’s chief prosecutor.
Ten people remain in hospital, six of them in a serious condition.
Hundreds of rescuers are using cranes and bulldozers to cut up and remove the biggest slabs of the fallen bridge, which slammed down onto railway tracks along with dozens of vehicles.
“We are trying to find pockets in the rubble where people could be — alive or not,” fire official Emanuele Gissi told AFP.
Officials say about 1,000 people in all are working on the disaster site, 350 of them firefighters.
The populist government has accused infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.
The dead also include children, one as young as eight, and three Chileans and four French nationals.
The French nationals, all in their 20s, had traveled to Italy for a music festival, and other victims included a family setting off on holiday and a couple returning from their California honeymoon.
More than 600 people were evacuated from around a dozen apartments beneath the remaining shard of bridge.
On Thursday evening the first residents of some buildings in the affected area were allowed to return home, though others are too badly damaged to save.
The Morandi viaduct dates from the 1960s and has been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.
Its collapse prompted fears over aging infrastructure across the world.
Italy has announced a year-long state of emergency in the region.
Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half of Italy’s motorways, estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge.
It denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in “safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network” since 2012.
Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade which is 30 percent owned by iconic fashion brand Benetton, has warned that the government would have to refund the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Autostrade “had the duty and obligation to assure the maintenance of this viaduct and the security of all those who traveled on it.”
The disaster is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.
Senior government figures have also lashed out at austerity measures imposed by the European Union, saying they restrict investment.
But the European Commission said it had given Rome billions of euros to fix infrastructure.