'Corruption' politician returns to Indonesia from Colombia

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The Independent Online

An Indonesian politician has returned after three months as a fugitive to face corruption charges in a case that has riveted the nation and tested its shaky reputation for fighting corruption.

Muhammad Nazaruddin, the governing Democratic Party's ex-treasurer, was captured last week in Colombia. He denies charges that he accepted $3m (£1.8m) in bribes from a company contracted to build an athletes' village for this year's Southeast Asian Games.

Before his extradition, Mr Nazaruddin rang local newspapers and TV news stations to say he was ready to expose corruption elsewhere within the governing party.

The case threatens the credibility of the party's founder, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. His 2009 re-election campaign presented him as being the "Mr Clean" of Indonesian politics.

Hundreds of people have been arrested for alleged corruption since President Yudhoyono took office. But critics note high-ranking officials have largely been left alone.

Mr Nazaruddin was taken into custody on Saturday after landing in Jakarta, the Anti-Corruption Commission said. The president has ordered that Mr Nazaruddin has full protection, while authorities probe the Games scandal.

No trial date has been set.

Indonesia emerged only recently from a 32-year dictatorship under General Suharto, whose family was accused of profiting from corruption to the tune of $600m.