Indonesia speaker named suspect in major corruption case
The speaker of Indonesia's parliament Setya Novanto waves as he arrives at Corruption Eradication Commision building (KPK) in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2017. Reuters

The anti-corruption agency of Indonesia said on Monday that it is investigating a member of parliament for allegedly causing state losses of at least 2.3 trillion rupiah (US$173 million) during the implementation of a national electronic identity card.

Although, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) identified the politician only by the initials "SN", but, the local media took it to be Setya Novanto, speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR) and chairman of Indonesia's second-biggest political party, Golkar.

According to KPK Chairman Agus Rahardjo, "SN" is suspected to have abused his authority to benefit himself or others while the electronic identity card, which is locally known as e-KTP. It was put in place in 2011 and 2012. However, Novanto did not give any respond to requests for comment regarding this matter.

"We are still waiting for official notice from the KPK that it had placed our chairman, Setya Novanto, as a suspect," a spokeswoman for Golkar, Nurul Arifin, told Reuters. "The Golkar party follows and respects the process of upholding the law, and we strongly hold on to the principle of the presumption of innocence," Arifin added.

The political analysts say that the KPK's large-scale investigation shows the independence of the anti-corruption agency. They said that it implicates members of President Joko Widodo's ruling party - the PDI-P - and other parties in his coalition.

"This most certainly demonstrates how tough the KPK is," Keith Loveard, a Jakarta-based analyst at Concord Consulting, said. He also added that Widodo is unlikely to get in the way of the KPK's investigation in the e-KTP case.

"While all the parties are virtually implicated, including the PDI-P, public support for the KPK remains extremely high. So for him to attempt to slow the process or to create obstacles would be very damaging to his popularity," Loveard said.

On late Monday, Golkar's secretary general, Idrus Marham, said that the party will continue to support for Widodo's re-election bid in 2019.

KPK has been investigating allegations that sums ranging from US$5,000 to US$5.5 million - money generated by marking up the costs of the e-KTP procurement - were divided up in a room in parliament.

Two public servants, who were on trial in March for corruption linked to the case, identified at least 37 people, who they said had benefited. The list of identified people includes Novanto as well.

However, at that time Novanto denied the allegation and said: "The contents of the indictment that mentions my name and others is absolutely wrong and all parties must look at the facts from the trial and ... allow the judges to be independent and impartial."

The scale of the alleged theft in the e-KTP case is so huge that it has created sensational headlines, even in a country like Indonesia, which is used to corruption scandals.

Indonesia ranked 90 out of 176 countries in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions index last year, on par with countries such as Liberia and Colombia.