Jakarta – The corruption trial of suspended Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf began to unfold like a soap opera after his close companion, Steffy Burase, was grilled on the stand about allegedly receiving a portion of the money the former had allegedly embezzled.
A former leader of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) who had successfully transitioned into a provincial leader, Irwandi fell from grace when the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named him a graft suspect for allegedly accepting Rp 500 million (US$35,848) in bribes related to an infrastructure project.
Steffy, a former model, denied in a hearing at the Jakarta Corruption Court on Monday that she had used some of the money to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for umrah (minor haj) with Irwandi prior to their planned wedding. She had just converted to Islam at the time.
She added that she had gone on umrah at the encouragement of Irwandi's aide, Teuku Saiful Bahri. She further conceded that she and the suspended governor were close but doubted she would marry him as he was still married to Darwati A. Agani.
"I went on umrah with money I borrowed from Saiful, which had been transferred to Fadhil. I don't know where he got the money from," Steffy told KPK prosecutor Ali Fikri.
She was referring to Teuku Fadhilatul Amri, Saiful's nephew and who had given his testimony prior to her. Irwandi and Saiful were present in the hearing. Another witness in the court included non-active governor's aide Yusrizal.
Steffy also claimed that she and Irwandi had called off their wedding because of Irwandi's arrest. According to the KPK's indictment, Steffy and Irwandi are already married.
Last year, Aceh, the country's only province that implements sharia, received Rp 8 trillion in special autonomy funds to be used for its development. About Rp 108 million was allocated to Bener Meriah regency.
Saiful and another Irwandi aide, Hendri Yuzal, allegedly directed Aceh's procurement unit to fund a number of projects in the regency with the special autonomy fund.
Irwandi stands accused of accepting Rp 500 million from Bener Meriah Regent Ahmadi – who has also been named as a suspect – as part of a Rp 1.5 billion "commitment fee" related to an infrastructure project in the regency.
According to KPK's indictment, some of the money transferred to Irwandi was allegedly used to buy uniforms and medals for the 2018 Aceh Marathon, a program initiated by Steffy. She told the court she had only designed the program but had not handled purchases.
"I was not supposed to handle the event's procurements. However, the sports agency asked me to buy the clothes and medals as its officials were not familiar with the items necessary for the event," she said. Steffy added that she had ended up asking for financial assistance from the governor.
Elaborating on her relationship with Irwandi, she explained that she had met him in Moscow in August 2017 during a Festival Indonesia event, where she was promoting the country's traditional woven fabric.
"At the meeting, I told Irwandi that I was interested in promoting something from Aceh abroad. He later asked me if I could help promote Sail Sabang 2017," she said.
Irwandi further asked her if she could create an event that would promote Aceh's tourism, she said. "At that time, my mind was on the marathon," she said, adding that Irwandi had told her to propose the Rp 13 billion sport tourism event to the youth and sports agency.
The KPK has also accused Irwandi of accepting unlawful gifts in two separate cases, including around Rp 8.7 billion between May 2017 and July 2018. The other case is related to a botched pier construction in Sabang's free-trade area.
Irwandi and businessman Izil Azhar, who is also the governor's right-hand man, are suspected of accepting illegal gratuities totaling Rp 32 billion between 2006 and 2011 in relation to the project. (das)