Indonesia’s former house speaker, Setya Novanto, was once called “invincible” for his ability to seemingly dodge all of the numerous corruption accusations he has been hit with over his long career. But nobody calls him invincible anymore – not since the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested him for his role in the massive electronic ID card (e-KTP) graft case following his highly suspicious and much memefied car accident and subsequent hospitalization in mid-November.
Now, while Novanto is tearfully testifying in his own corruption court trial over his role in the e-KTP case, which is believed to have cost the state IDR2.3 trillion (US$170 million), Novanto’s former lawyer, Fredrich Yunadi, is facing a separate corruption court trial over his alleged engineering of the ex-house speaker’s car accident and hospital diagnosis, alongside his co-defendant and alleged co-conspirator Dr. Bimanesh Sutarjo.
What is not in dispute is that Novanto disappeared on November 15 shortly before the KPK went to his house to arrest him. The former Golkar politicians’ whereabouts were unknown until the next day when it was reported he had been involved in a car accident.
According to Fredrich, who was his lawyer at the time, Novanto had been in a car on the way to KPK headquarters to turn himself in to authorities when the driver crashed into an electrical pole on the side of the road. Novanto was then rushed to Medika Permata Hijau Hospital after allegedly sustaining severe injuries including, in Friedrich’s words, a bump on his head as big as a “bakpao” (Chinese steamed bun).
Dr. Bimanesh backed up Fredrich’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.
Since their trial began, a litany of witnesses have testified to Fredrich and Dr. Bimanesh’s duplicity in the case.
Dr. Michael Chia Cahaya, who was working in the Medika Permata Hijau Hospital’s emergency room the day Novanto was brought in, told the court last Friday that he had been instructed by both Fredrich and Dr. Bimanesh to fake medical records showing Novanto had suffered severe injuries even before the politician had been brought to the hospital but that he had refused to do so on ethical grounds.
“I said, if the doctor want to fire me fine, I can find other work,” Michael told the court as quoted by Kompas.
In the end it was Dr. Bimanesh, who is a kidney specialist, who ended up diagnosing Novanto’s car crash injuries (which obviously looked a little suspicious to investigators).
In addition to Dr. Michael’s damning testimony, the hospital’s attending doctor at the time, Dr. Alia, told the court that Fredrich had booked a VIP room at the hospital prior to Setya’s alleged accident.
Two nurses also testified to the fact that Novanto’s body was covered with a blanked when entering 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.
Both Dr. Bimanesh and Fredrich face up to 12 years in jail for obstructing justice.