JAKARTA: Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission formally named the country's fisheries minister as a suspect in taking bribes related to exports of lobster larvae, and alleged he used the money on a luxury shopping spree during a visit to the United States.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo was arrested upon arrival at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport early on Wednesday (Nov 25) from a working visit to the US, the deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission, Nurul Ghufron, told Kompas TV.
Prabowo apologised, saying: “I will be responsible for what I have done.”
He was later named as a suspect along with five other officials and a businessman for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for permits related to exports of lobster larvae and other commodities this year.
The anti-corruption commission, known in Indonesia by its acronym KPK, said Prabowo is accused of receiving at least 3.4 billion rupiah (US$240,000) from several companies through his two personal assistants, who were also named as suspects, this month.
Another deputy chairman of the KPK, Nawawi Pamolango, told a news conference just before midnight that Prabowo and his wife had spent some of the money to buy branded goods during their US visit, including a Rolex watch and Louis Vuitton bags.
Prabowo earlier this year rolled back a ban on lobster larvae exports put in place by his predecessor. That decision sparked criticism from his predecessor and activists over sustainability concerns.
President Joko Widodo said he respected the decision of the anti-corruption commission to arrest Prabowo.
“I believe the KPK works in a transparent, open and professional manner,” Widodo told reporters. “The government consistently supports corruption eradication efforts.”
Prabowo faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment if found guilty. It could further tarnish Widodo’s credibility when it comes to fighting corruption. Two previous members of Widodo’s Cabinet have already been sentenced to prison terms in corruption cases.
Former Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham was sentenced to five years in a bribery case related to a coal-fired power plant project on Sumatra island, while former Youth and Sport Minister Imam Nahrawi got seven years after he was found guilty of personally using a National Sports Committee grant.
Prabowo is the deputy chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, formerly a rival to Widodo’s party. He joined the Cabinet in November 2019 as part of of an alliance forged after Widodo’s election to a second term, along with the party’s chairman and former Widodo’s rival in the 2019 presidential election, Prabowo Subianto, who currently serves as defence minister.
Considered by many to be one of Subianto’s most trusted aides, Prabowo told reporters that he would resign as minister and politician from Gerindra.
“I apologise to Mr President ... I have betrayed his trust, and to Prabowo Subianto, my teacher who has taught many things,” he told reporters before entering a car to be taken to a holding cell.
Widodo campaigned in part on a pledge to run a clean government in a country that ranked 85th out of 180 nations in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International.