Haeril Halim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Tue, February 18 2014, 9:56 AM
While the majority of the population of Banten province live in poverty, a new report has surfaced that the family of graft suspect and Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah owns two islands in the area.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said that it would launch a probe into whether the islands, off the coast of Banten, were purchased using illicit funds.
The KPK has so far confiscated 38 luxury cars, allegedly tied to money laundering activities of Atut’s younger brother Tubagus Chaeri “Wawan” Wardana, who has been accused of showering local councilors and a number of actresses with cars and premium properties.
KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said on Monday that investigators were still looking for evidence.
“We will look into the information thoroughly. We welcome any information regarding the purchase of the islands,” Bambang said.
The two islands in question are Liwungan and Popole, off the coast of Banten and are part of Panimbang and Labuan subdistricts, respectively, both in Pandeglang regency.
Separately, the lawyer of Atut’s family Firman Wijaya said that the two islands belonged to the family’s patriarch.
He said that the islands were initially purchased by Atut’s father, Chasan Sochib, a founder of Banten province, long before Atut assumed leadership in 2006.
“The ownership of the two islands has nothing to do with the [graft] cases [and money laundering case implicating Wawan and Atut]. The KPK should not assume all assets belonging to Atut’s family members are related to money laundering,“ Firman said on Monday.
Firman said that the two islands were just two of many properties owned by the family.
In contrast to the wealth that Atut and her family have amassed, some regions in Banten continue to lag behind other provinces in spite of its proximity to the capital.
Despite an annual budget of nearly Rp 6 trillion (US$509 million), the Banten administration failed to develop infrastructure or a poverty-reduction strategy, placing Pandeglang, Lebak and Serang among the most disadvantaged regions. A sharp contrast South Tangerang regency, for example, which has been developed by private developers.
According to data from the Disadvantaged Regions Ministry, Pandeglang and Lebak are among the 183 disadvantaged regions listed by the ministry. Lebak has a population of 1.27 million, 579,373 of which are classified as poor.
Many of Lebak’s residents had barely finished elementary school before moving to major cities, such as Jakarta and Bandung, to be domestic workers.
The KPK has named Wawan and Atut suspects for allegedly bribing former Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar, in return for a favorable ruling in a local election dispute in Lebak regency, a regency that Atut’s family had little influence.
The KPK has also named Wawan and Atut suspects in two separate graft cases involving the procurement of medical equipment for the South Tangerang regency and Banten province administrations. Later, the KPK charged Wawan with money laundering.
A political observer from Banten’s Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa University, Dahnil Anzar, urged the KPK name Atut a money laundering suspect as well.
“Our study with a number of local NGOs in Banten showed that Atut allegedly launders her supposed illicit wealth by buying properties under her daughter and son’s names.”
“[…] one of Atut’s daughters , has a four star hotel in Banten. How can the daughter own a four star hotel at such a young age? Also, one of Atut’s sons has a yacht, registered under his name,” Dahnil said.