‘Now my life could be threatened’ key corruption case witness told media days before committing suicide in LA

Photo illustration of a crime scene.
Photo illustration of a crime scene.

The biggest corruption case under investigation in Indonesia at the moment is a massive graft scandal in which numerous senior politicians, including House Speaker Setya Novanto, have been accused of misappropriating around $170 million of government funds for an electronic ID (E-KTP) program. The case took another shocking turn this weekend when one of the key witnesses in the case committed suicide in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office concluded that 32-year-old Johannes Marliem died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head early Thursday morning after a tense nine-hour standoff with the police in which he allegedly held a woman and her child hostage (police have not confirmed if the hostages were Marliem’s wife and child).

Marliem was the director of Biomorf Lone LLC, a U.S.-based company that had been awarded the project to procure an automated fingerprint system for the e-KTP program. On July 19, Koran Tempo published an interview in which Marliem told them he had evidence, including recorded conversation, with the politicians who masterminded the corruption case, including Setya Novanto.

On Saturday, another media outlet, Kontan, published excerpts of messages they had exchanged with Marliem in which he said that his life was now in danger after having been named a witness in the case.

“I did not want (my name) to be published as a witness. Now my life could be threatened,” he said as quoted by Kontan.

Marliem told Kontan that his involvement in the case and his ownership of the recordings should not have been disclosed by the media and described it as a leak.

Some have accused the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) of not doing enough to protect Marliem as a key witness in the case. The Chairman of House Commission III, Bambang Soesatyo told CNN Indonesia on Sunday, “As the institution that positioned the late Johannes Marliem as a key witness in the e-KTP project mega corruption case, (the KPK) is responsible for his death.”

The vice chairman of Indonesia’s Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), Hasto Atmojo Suroyo, said that Marliem had contacted his agency about two weeks before his death, asking for their protection. However, Hasto claims that Marliem only asked for information on how to apply for protection but did not follow it up, and so LPSK never investigated his claims nor granted him their protection

Novel Baswedan, the lead KPK investigator in the e-KTP graft case, was attacked by two assailants in April who splashed his face with acid, leaving him blind in one eye. Police have yet to arrest any suspects involved in the attack.

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