Monday, July 26, 2021

Former Indonesian minister stands trial in Covid-19 food aid bribery case

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Prosecutors from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) accused former social affairs minister Juliari Batubara of accepting bribes up to Rp 32.48 billion (US$2.23 million) from contractors supplying Covid-19 food aid packages to people in need, in the first hearing of his trial on Wednesday (April 21).

The prosecutors said that Juliari accepted the bribes through his subordinates in charge of procuring goods for the social aid programme — Adi Wahyono and Matheus Joko Santoso.

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Both men are also standing trial.

The former minister from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is alleged to have instructed Adi and Matheus to handpick and charge a Rp 10,000 commission for each aid package with some suppliers.

They collected up to Rp 32.38 billion on behalf of Juliari from 63 companies between May and December 2020.

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“The defendant [Juliari] knew or should have suspected that the money he received from Adi and Matheus was related to the appointment of PT Pertani, PT Mandala Hamonganan, PT Tigapilar and some other companies as suppliers of Covid-19 social aid packages, ” KPK prosecutor Muhammad Nur Aziz said during the televised trial on Wednesday.

Juliari allegedly used the money for various activities, from procuring Idul Adha sacrifice cattle to renting private jets for working trips to Lampung, Denpasar and Semarang.

The case has attracted considerable attention from people who felt cheated by Juliari amid the pandemic hardships.

Before he was named suspect and arrested in December last year, Juliari had frequently dismissed mounting criticism surrounding the delivery of aid, claiming that data discrepancies in social assistance distribution during the pandemic were not the central administration’s responsibility.

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Juliari is the second serving minister of Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s second-term presidency to be implicated in corruption, after then-maritime affairs and fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo, who is currently also standing trial for accepting bribes in a lobster larvae export case.

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