The Jakarta Corruption Court (Tipikor) today sentenced Dr. Bimanesh Sutarjo to three years in prison for his role in one of the most dramatic and silly corruption investigations Indonesia has ever seen.
Bimanesh was found guilty of obstruction of justice after the court ruled that he co-conspired with lawyer Fredrich Yunadi to engineer a fake car crash so that former House Speaker Setya Novanto, who was Friedreich’s client and a suspect in a major graft investigation, could elude Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators in November of last year.
“The court is handing down a sentence of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of IDR150 million (US$10,412). Failure to pay the fine would result in an additional month in prison,” said head judge Mahfudin during the sentence hearing this morning, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
The sentence is lighter than the prosecutors’ demand of six years’ imprisonment. The court said it decided to be lenient on Bimanesh on the grounds that he did not have a criminal record prior to this case and his 38-years of devotion to the medical field.
Both Bimanesh and the prosecutors were given one week to decide if they want to appeal the decision.
On November 15, 2017, Setya Novanto disappeared shortly before KPK investigators went to his house to arrest him for his role in the the enormous e-KTP (electronic ID cards) graft scandal . He resurfaced the next day when his driver crashed his car into an electrical pole on the side of the road in Permata Hijau, South Jakarta (allegedly while on the way to turn himself in to the KPK, according to Fredrich) . Novanto was then rushed to Medika Permata Hijau Hospital after allegedly sustaining severe injuries including, in his lawyer Friedrich’s words, a bump on his head as big as a “bakpao” (Chinese steamed bun).
Bimanesh, who was named a co-conspirator in Fredrich’s obstruction of justice case, backed up the lawyer’s claims and tried to prevent KPK investigators from gaining custody of Novanto on medical grounds. However, the KPK was soon able to bring in their own independent medical examiners who confirmed that Novanto had not suffered severe injuries, allowing investigators to take custody of the politician, move him to a new medical facility and have him arrested.
Shortly after his client’s arrest, Fredrich dropped out as Novanto’s legal counsel. But that didn’t stop the KPK from arresting Fredrich in January on charges that he obstructed justice by trying to deceive investigators regarding Novanto’s health.
During the trial, a litany of witnesses testified to Fredrich and Dr. Bimanesh’s duplicity surrounding the case. One emergency room doctor said he had been instructed by both Fredrich and Bimanesh to fake medical records showing Novanto had suffered severe injuries even before the politician had been brought to the hospital. In the end it was Bimanesh, a kidney specialist, who ended up diagnosing Novanto’s car crash injuries (which obviously looked a little suspicious to investigators).
The hospital’s attending doctor at the time of the incident told the court that Fredrich had booked a VIP room at the hospital prior to Setya’s alleged accident. Two nurses testified to the fact that Novanto’s body was covered with a blanket when he entered the hospital, which was very unusual for car accident victims. They also told the court that Novanto did not appear to have any severe injuries on his face or head, contradicting Fredrich’s “bakpao” claim.
The overwhelming evidence that Fredrich and Bimanesh had conspired to try and keep Setya out of the hands of the KPK investigators was enough to convince the judges to find the lawyer guilty and sentenced him to seven years last month. The KPK yesterday said they would appeal against the sentence as prosecutors previously demanded 12 years for Fredrich.
Setya Novanto was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April for his key role in embezzlement from the $440 million ID card project, with some $170 million disappearing from state coffers. The sentence was among the heaviest for corruption in the country’s history and was heralded by many activists as a major victory in Indonesia’s war against endemic corruption and culture of impunity.