JAKARTA: Indonesia’s former social affairs minister Juliari Batubara was sentenced to jail for 12 years for corruption activities on Monday (Aug 23). He had accepted bribes of up to US$1.2 million linking to food aid meant for distribution to poor families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A sting operation uncovered more than US$1 million in cash stuffed into various suitcases, backpacks, and envelopes.
According to presiding judge Muhammad Damis in the virtual hearing, “The court sentenced the defendant to 12 years in prison and ordered him to pay 500 million rupiah (US$35,000) in fines or serve six additional months in prison.” Another order made by the court to the former politician warrants for payment of the equivalent of an estimated US$1 million in restitution, or face an additional two years in prison.
Juliari, who pleaded not guilty will also be banned from public office for four years after serving his prison term while his lawyer Maqdir Ismail described the sentence as too harsh and are considering on appealing against the matter.
Batubara had previously accepted cash payments from two contractors hired to supply basic food packages for Indonesians hit hard by the health crisis, the court heard earlier.
Other previous cases
In the wake of Batubara’s arrest, President Joko Widodo has vowed against covering up and protecting corrupt officials, describing the stolen funds as “the people’s money”.
According to polls carried out by Transparency.org, an international anti-corruption advocacy group, 92% of the people feel that government corruption is a big problem and 30% of public service users has paid a bribe in the previous 12 months. Indonesia also ranks 102/180 on the corruptions perception index and scored 37/100 in 2020 under the index.
Indonesia has seen the arrest of scores of public officials by the anti-corruption agency in recent years, including former Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo who last month was jailed for five years in a graft case linked to baby lobster exports.
Indonesia is one of the southeast Asian countries worst hit by COVID-19. It has a total of nearly 4 million confirmed infections and more than 126,000 deaths, which is thought to be severely undercounted due to low testing rates and inaccuracies in data collection.