Indonesian prosecutors seek at least 16 years prison for ex-parliament speaker

Former Indonesia parliament speaker Setya Novanto sits in a Corruption Eradication Commission court, known locally as the KPK, in Jakarta, Indonesia March 29, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja/ via REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian prosecutors on Thursday sought a jail term of at least 16 years for former parliament speaker Setya Novanto if found guilty in a graft scandal and demanded that he also repay more than $7 million he is suspected of plundering.

The Corruption Eradication Commission, known locally as the KPK, demanded that judges presiding over Novanto’s trial find him “legally and convincingly proven guilty of jointly committing corruption”, prosecutor Abdul Basir told the court.

Novanto, who was taken into custody in November, is accused of orchestrating a scheme to plunder $173 million from a government contract to introduce a national electronic identity card - almost 40 percent of the project’s entire budget.

He denies wrongdoing in a case that has shocked Indonesians already used to large corruption scandals..

Should Novanto fail to repay the $7.4 million the commission alleges he received from the scheme within a month of a court ruling, his assets should be seized and auctioned off, Basir added. If that didn’t cover the alleged losses, Novanto should serve an additional three years in prison, Basir said.

Prosecutors, who have questioned 80 witnesses in the case, also demanded Novanto pay an additional 1 billion rupiah ($72,670) fine or serve an additional six months in prison.

Novanto had stayed in power through several previous corruption cases and repeatedly missed summonses for questioning by the anti-graft agency in connection with this case, saying he needed heart surgery.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 13.

Editing by Nick Macfie