JAKARTA: Indonesian anti-corruption officials have arrested the country’s social affairs minister for allegedly receiving US$ 1.2 million kickbacks from two contractors tasked with distributing aid to people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister, Juliari Batubara was brought in for questioning at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) headquarters in Jakarta at about 3am local time on Sunday (Dec 6) under heavy security by anti-graft officials.
Mr Batubara’s arrest came after a sting operation conducted by KPK officers on Saturday.
During the operation, two private contractors and two officials from the Social Affairs Ministry were arrested and millions of dollars in cash of three different currencies were confiscated.
The KPK suspected that the money was meant for Mr Batubara, who awarded the two companies with a contract to distribute cash and basic necessities to 10 million families whose economies have been impacted by the pandemic.
KPK chairman Firli Bahuri said Mr Batubara could face harsh penalties if convicted, considering the fact that the minister had allegedly tried to profit from a pandemic.
“We shall see if based on witness testimonies and evidence if we should charge (the minister) with article two of the 1999 law number 31,” Mr Bahuri told reporters in the early morning press conference.
The KPK chairman was referring to Article 2 of Indonesia's law on corruption which states that a death penalty could be imposed on officials who tries to profit himself by causing losses in state coffers during a state of emergency.
“The KPK would like to warn other people not to commit acts of corruption, particularly in the time of a pandemic. If there are people who still took advantage of the situation for their personal gains, the KPK will not hesitate to take firm action,” Mr Bahuri said.
The same agency has recently arrested another member of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet, fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo.
Mr Prabowo is accused of receiving kickbacks from a lobster importer.