YOGYAKARTA: Former Parliamentary Speaker Setya Novanto pocketed $7.3 million in kickbacks from a government project to issue new ID cards, a court in Jakarta heard Wednesday.
Novanto, who was once described as “one of the powerful men and a great man” by U.S. President Donald Trump, is among several senior politicians accused of receiving money from the scheme.
The scandal came to light earlier this year and is estimated to have cost taxpayers around $170 million.
“The defendant unlawfully, directly or indirectly, intervened in the budgeting and procurement process of the national electronic identity card scheme,” Prosecutor Ahmad Burhanuddin told the televised hearing at Jakarta Corruption Court.
He said Novanto, 62, had received cash from two businessmen, Irvanto Hendra Pambudi Cahyo and Made Oka Masagung, totaling $7.3 million.
The former speaker, who has faced corruption claims in the past but never been convicted, also allegedly received a $135,000 Richard Mille watch.
The hearing was interrupted after Novanto, an influential politician from the opposition Golkar party, said he was unable to participate due to a bout of diarrhea.
The claim prompted jeers and laughter from observers. In the past, Novanto has avoided legal action by claiming ill health.
He was named as a suspect in the case for the second time on Nov. 10 after he repeatedly missed summonses for questioning by corruption investigators, saying he was ill and needed to be hospitalized.
The identity card program was launched in 2011 with the aim of providing greater data security and efficiency to Indonesia’s more than 250 million inhabitants.
According to investigators, around half of the project’s 5.8 trillion Indonesian rupiah ($434 million) budget was divided between 37 people, including Novanto and 23 other members of the House of Representatives.
Former Parliamentary Speaker Setya Novanto was temporarily forced to step down as house speaker over corruption allegations in 2015 after he was caught seeking shares worth billions of dollars from a U.S. mining company. Novanto was cleared of charges and returned as speaker, a role he quit again last week.
In its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International ranked Indonesia 90 out of 176 countries, with parliament cited as the most corrupt institution in the country.