Riau governor held in graft probe over reclamation deal

JAKARTA • Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency has arrested the governor of Riau Islands, as well as six others, in an investigation into bribery allegations.

Nurdin Basirun was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) at the governor’s residence on Wednesday evening, after his aide was caught with a $6,000 bribe he had received for the governor from a businessman earlier that day, KPK commissioner Basaria Panjaitan told a media briefing last night.

Nurdin and his aides were apprehended by KPK for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for a land reclamation permit.

At a press briefing broadcast on local television, KPK said those arrested included aides, staff and a businessman.

Ms Basaria said the bribe was linked to a businessman who was seeking a permit to carry out a reclamation project to build a 10.2ha resort on Tanjung Piayu, a protected zone in Batam.

The commissioner clarified that while a final permit had not been issued, the businessman was given a promise that he would be allowed to go ahead.

KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah said at the same briefing that the governor had received $5,000 and 45 million rupiah (S$4,300) in cash as a bribe on May 30. The $6,000 bribe seized by KPK on Wednesday from the governor’s aide was meant to be given to the governor.

Ms Basaria said KPK had acted on a tip-off that there would be a handover of cash on Wednesday to a senior staff member at the provincial office.

She said KPK caught the employee and businessman right after the bribe was handed over. The commission also arrested others, including the governor at his official residence.

Cash amounts of $43,942 and US$5,300 (S$7,200), along with amounts in other currencies, were later found in a bag at the governor’s house.

Nurdin had spent most of Wednesday in Batam, attending an anniversary celebration for the national police, before returning to Tanjung Pinang later that afternoon.

All of those arrested were transferred to the Tanjung Pinang police station in the provincial capital for further questioning and taken to KPK’s headquarters in Jakarta yesterday.

Nurdin was seen arriving at the KPK headquarters in Jakarta yesterday, reported the Suara.com news website, adding that he appeared relaxed and declined to answer questions from the media.

Nurdin has been the governor of Riau Islands since late May 2016. He had served as deputy to governor Muhammad Sani, and was acting governor after the latter fell ill and died on April 8 that year at the age of 73.

As the No. 1 man in the province known as Kepri, Nurdin is tasked with the challenge of bringing prosperity to the sprawling region of nearly 2,500 islands, from Batam and Bintan to far-flung Natuna.

He previously served as the regent of Karimun, in Riau Islands, for two consecutive terms, from 2006 to 2011 and from 2011 to 2015. From 2001 to 2005, he was the deputy mayor of Karimun.

He is married to Singaporean Noor Lizah Mohamed Taib and has three children, all of whom are also Singaporean.

Nurdin holds a master’s degree in communications and a doctorate in state administration.

Cash amounts of $43,942 and US$5,300 (S$7,200), along with amounts in other currencies, were later found in a bag at the governor’s house.

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