Former Indonesian agriculture minister sentenced to 10 years for corruption

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s anti-graft court sentenced a former agriculture minister to 10 years in prison Thursday after finding him guilty of corruption-related extortion, abuse of power and bribery involving ministry contracts with private vendors.

The case has tarnished President Joko Widodo’s credibility in fighting corruption. Five other members of Widodo’s Cabinet have been sentenced to prison terms in corruption cases, casting a shadow over his efforts to clean up government while his term will end in October.

The court in the capital, Jakarta, ruled that the former Cabinet minister, Syahrul Yasin Limpo, was guilty of abusing his power by enriching himself and other officials. It also ordered him to pay a 300 million rupiah ($18,500) fine, and said he would be subject to another four months’ imprisonment if he fails to pay.

“The defendant has legally and convincingly been proven guilty of corruption,” presiding Judge Rianto Adam Pontoh said. “He wasn’t a good example as a public official, what he has done is counter the government’s efforts to fight corruption and enriched himself by corruption.”

Limpo had been arrested last October by the Corruption Eradication Commission, known as the KPK. He has denied wrongdoing.

Several ministry officials testified during the trial that secretariats, directorates general and agencies within the ministry was required to give up 20% of their budgets to Limpo, as though they were indebted to him, and he threated their jobs if they rejected his demands. Vendors and suppliers were also asked to set aside money to fulfill the then-minister’s demands, the trial revealed.

Limpo used the money on luxurious cars, gifts and apartments, charter private jets, family parties and gatherings, and for religious observances and pilgrimages. Limpo also used the bribes to disburse humanitarian aid for disaster victims and to his Nasdem political party.

Prosecutors, who sought 12 years imprisonment for Limpo, said the politician accepted a total of 44.7 billion rupiah ($2.7 million) between January 2020 and October 2023.

In their indictment, prosecutors accused Limpo of ordering his two subordinates, Kasdi Subagyono and Muhammad Hatta, to collect the illicit money. They were each sentenced to four years in prison in separate cases.

During the trial, Limpo said he was the victim of political persecution and felt that he had been slandered by his subordinates in his ministry who fears of being replaced or removed from their position.

“I never received any information about their objection to any of my orders,” Limpo said, “If they think it’s wrong, they should consult and discuss with me ​​first.”

Widodo campaigned in part on a pledge to run a clean government in a country that ranked 115th out of 180 nations in the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International.

Limpo, a former South Sulawesi governor, is the second politician from the Nasdem Party to face recent prosecution. Johnny G. Plate, a former communication minister, was sentenced to 15 years in prison over $533 million in graft of the construction of mobile phone transmission towers in remote parts of the country.

Corruption is endemic in Indonesia and the anti-graft commission, one of the few effective institutions in the country of nearly 270 million people, is frequently under attack by lawmakers who want to reduce its powers.

The KPK has arrested around 250 members of the local parliament, as many as 133 regents and mayors as well as 18 governors, 83 members of the national parliament and 12 ministers since the institution was founded in late 2003.

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