Jakarta—Muhammad Nazaruddin, a bright 32-year-old, was an up and coming national politician destined for high office, perhaps even president. He was one of the new political tigers that won office as the result of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s election victory in 2004. By 2010, Nazaruddin was already treasurer of the ruling Democratic Party and a member of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, which oversees government projects.

Nazaruddin’s downfall came last May when local newspapers reported he received bribes totalling 25 billion rupiahs ($2.8 million) for a construction contract to build athletes’ housing at the Jakarta 2011 Southeast Asian Games. In late September, two members of the project consortium were convicted of involvement in the bribery scandal and were sentenced to only two and two-and-a-half years in prison and a fine of Rp 200 million ($22,300). “If that’s...

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