A senior Indonesian politician has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for his role in the theft of $170 million of public money, a victory for police fighting corruption in Indonesia.
Setya Novanto, the former speaker of parliament and former chairman of the Golkar Party, sat impassively as the guilty verdict and sentence were announced at the Jakarta Corruption Court.
The case has shocked Indonesians, already used to large corruption scandals and has reinforced a widely held perception that their parliament, long regarded as riddled with corruption, is a failing institution.
Asked by the five judge panel to respond, Novanto, his voice trembling, said he would think about whether to accept the outcome or appeal.
The ruling said Novanto enriched himself by abusing the authority and opportunities available to him because of his political position.
“The defendant has consciously committed a criminal act of corruption,” chief judge Yanto, who uses one name, told the court.
Novanto was also fined 500 million rupiah, which is equivalent to $36,000.
Prosecutors said Novanto was among about 80 officials and several companies who used the introduction of a $440 million electronic identity card system in 2011 and 2012 to steal more than a third of the funds.
During the trial, Novanto denied any wrongdoing while also using his knowledge of the conspiracy to accuse other senior politicians.
His attempt to gain a more lenient sentence for acting as an informant was unsuccessful. As part of his defence, he also read a poem to the court.
Novanto received about $7.3 million from his part in the conspiracy and he faces a further two years in prison if an auction of his assets fails to recoup that money.
He is banned from holding public office for five years following the end of his prison term.
The corruption case, epic even by the standards of Indonesia’s notoriously corrupt parliament, and Novanto’s efforts to elude questioning by the Corruption Eradication Commission disgusted and angered many in the world’s third-largest democracy.
In November, he was hospitalised after a car he was a passenger in collided with a power pole in an accident widely mocked online as another tactic to avoid arrest.
He was arrested in the hospital after doctors who examined Novanto said he was fit to stand trial.
Several other leading politicians, including ministers in President Joko Widodo’s government, are possibly implicated by the scandal.