Former Indonesian Communications Minister Imprisoned for Accepting Bribes

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ASEAN Beat | Politics | Southeast Asia

Former Indonesian Communications Minister Imprisoned for Accepting Bribes

Johnny G. Plate is accused of taking nearly $1.2 million in kickbacks related to the construction of thousands of telecoms towers in remote parts of the archipelago.

Former Indonesian Communications Minister Imprisoned for Accepting Bribes

Indonesian Communication and Information Technology Minister Johnny G. Plate (center) as seen in a photo posted to his Facebook page on January 22, 2019.

Credit: Facebook/Johnny G. Plate, SE

Indonesia’s former minister of communication and information technology has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for accepting bribes, the fifth ex-member of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet to be convicted on corruption-related charges.

In a hearing yesterday, Reuters reported, the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court found Johnny G. Plate was guilty of receiving 17.8 billion rupiah ($1.14 million) in kickbacks related to the construction of thousands of telecommunication towers. The towers were part of a 17 trillion-rupiah ($1.09 billion) ministry plan to bring internet access to remote and underdeveloped areas of the archipelago.

Fahzal Hendri, chairman of the three-judge panel at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court, said Johnny had been found “convincingly guilty of corruption,” according to Reuters.

The court said that the scheme, which the attorney-general’s office claims involved a total of 16 suspects, cost the state around 6.2 trillion rupiah ($396 million) in losses. In addition to his prison sentence, the court ordered Plate to pay a fine of 1 billion rupiah ($63,765) or spend an additional six months in prison, and also to reimburse 15.5 billion rupiah ($988,000) to the state.

Plate was arrested in May, and during his subsequent trial, prosecutors alleged that Plate changed the terms of the procurement and the number of construction sites without conducting feasibility studies, and that he personally creamed off 17.8 billion rupiah from the project’s funds. Prosecutors said that he used the money to fund a trip to the United States and to pay for golfing jaunts, among other things.

As mentioned above, Johnny, a member of the NasDem Party, one of the seven parties in Jokowi’s ruling coalition, is the fifth former member of the Indonesian leader’s cabinet to be sentenced to prison on corruption charges.

He joins former Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham, who was sentenced to three years in prison for accepting bribes in 2019; former Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, who was sentenced to seven years in prison after he was found guilty of embezzling money from a National Sports Committee grant the same year; Edhy Prabowo, the former minister of maritime affairs and fisheries, who was sentenced to five years in prison in July 2021 for his involvement in a corrupt scheme to export valuable lobster larvae; and ex-Social Affairs Minister Juliari Peter Batubaram, who was handed a 12-year prison sentence for taking bribes from private contractors in connection with a government COVID-19 assistance package.

A sixth cabinet member – Indonesia’s former agriculture minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo, also a member of the Nasdem Party – was arrested last month on accusations of bribery, abuse of power, and fraud involving contracts with private vendors. He is accused of accepting about 13.9 billion rupiah ($885,000) in bribes through two of his subordinates, who have also been named as suspects.