Rizky Amelia & Ezra Sihite
Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators searched the office of the Religious Affairs Ministry Friday morning after a Golkar Party lawmaker from the House Commission VIII — which oversees religious affairs — was named as a graft suspect for allegedly receiving kickbacks to approve a Rp 35 billion (3.71 million) Koran procurement project.
Zulkarnaen Djabar was reportedly paid an undisclosed amount to push the project through the House of Representatives’ Budget Committee.
“[We] have issued a letter to start the investigation, declaring him as suspect,” Bambang Widjojanto, deputy chairman of the KPK said on Friday.
Bambang declined to offer further details on the case. It is unknown how the Rp 35 billion was used or who printed the Korans — if they were even printed.
“That’s it for now,” Bambang said. “We cannot go into details.”
The Religious Affairs Ministry spends between Rp 2 billion and Rp 3 billion annually to print 60,000 to 70,000 Korans, Religious Affairs Deputy Minister Nazaruddin Umar said. The annual demand exceeded 2 million, he told Tempo.
Nazaruddin, who served as the ministry’s director general when the 2010 deal was brokered, said that he was unaware of the allegations and doubted the case was legitimate.
“We will be cooperative if the KPK needs evidence,” Nazaruddin said, adding that he warned his staff not to corrupt budget procurement talks, especially when involving something as sacred as the Koran.
The minister also denied the KPK was searching the Religious Affairs Ministry’s office.
Zulkarnaen said on Thursday that he was surprised to hear that he was named as a suspect, explaining that he was never involved in the Koran procurement project.
“I was acting normal at the commission,” he said on Thursday as quoted by tempo.co.
“I don’t know that I have been named as suspect, Zulkarnaen said, adding “Astagfirullah” — the Arabic phrase meaning “I seek forgiveness from Allah.”
The KPK has placed a travel ban on Zulkarnaen, pending further investigation into the allegations.
Nazaruddin urged the KPK to wrap up their investigation in a timely manner.
“Finish the investigation soon, so people who were not involved are not held hostage by public opinion,” he said.
The deputy chairman of the KPK announced the investigation on July 21, 2012, explaining that graft convict Muhammad Nazaruddin might have had a hand in the project as well.
“Even Holy Book [funding is] corrupted,” K.M.S. Romi, a senior KPK official, told tempo.co at the time of the announcement. “How sad.”