Former Indonesian Agriculture Minister Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Corruption

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Court on Thursday sentenced a former agriculture minister to 10 years in prison, finding him guilty of extortion, abuse of power and bribery in connection with the ministry’s contracts with private suppliers.

The case has damaged President Joko Widodo’s credibility in fighting corruption. Five other members of Widodo’s cabinet have been sentenced to prison in corruption cases, casting a shadow over his efforts to clean up the government as his term ends in October.

The court in the capital Jakarta found former Cabinet minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo guilty of abusing power by enriching himself and other officials. It also fined him 300 million rupiah ($18,500) and said he would face an additional four months in prison if he failed to pay.

“The defendant has been found legally and conclusively guilty of corruption,” said Presiding Judge Rianto Adam Pontoh. “He was not a good example as a public servant, what he did was to obstruct the government’s efforts to combat corruption and enrich himself through corruption.”

Limpo was arrested last October by the Corruption Eradication Commission, better known as the KPK. He denies wrongdoing.

Several ministry officials testified during the trial that secretariats, directorates-general and agencies within the ministry were required to hand over 20% of their budgets to Limpo, as if they owed him something, and he threatened their jobs if they refused his demands. Vendors and suppliers were also asked to set aside money to meet the then-minister’s demands, the trial heard.

Limpo used the money for luxury cars, gifts and apartments, chartered private jets, family parties and gatherings, and for religious observances and pilgrimages. Limpo also used the bribes to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the disaster and to his Nasdem political party.

According to prosecutors, who demanded a 12-year prison sentence for Limpo, 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 illegal money. They were each sentenced to four years in prison in separate cases.

During the trial, Limpo stated that he was a victim of political persecution and that he felt he was being slandered by his subordinates in his ministry, who feared that they would be replaced or removed from their positions.

“I have never received any information about their objection to any of my orders,” Limpo said. “If they think it is wrong, they should consult and talk to me first.”

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

Limpo, a former governor of South Sulawesi, is the second politician from the Nasdem party to be prosecuted recently. Johnny G. Plate, a former communications minister, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for $533 million in corruption over the construction of mobile phone towers in remote parts of the country.

Corruption is endemic in Indonesia and the anti-corruption commission, one of the few effective institutions in the country of nearly 270 million people, comes under frequent attack from lawmakers seeking to limit its powers.

Since the institution was established in late 2003, the KPK has arrested approximately 250 members of local parliament, as many as 133 regents and mayors, 18 governors, 83 members of the national parliament and 12 ministers.

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