Former social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara, a Protestant, has been jailed for 12 years for taking bribes in connection with the procurement of Covid-19 relief packages. (Photo courtesy of Social Affairs Ministry)
An Indonesian court has sentenced a Christian former cabinet minister to 12 years in prison for embezzling more than US$2 million in Covid-19 relief program funds.
The Jakarta Corruption Court also fined Juliari Batubara, a Protestant and former social affairs minister, 500 million rupiah ($34,732) in lieu of six months' imprisonment.
Sentencing on Aug. 23 was conducted by video link due to Covid-19 social restrictions.
Batubara, who belongs to the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, was convicted of taking $2.25 million in bribes in connection with the procurement of Covid-19 aid packages containing basic necessities distributed in Jakarta and surrounding areas in May-December last year.
As a result, people were given aid packages of poor quality.
He reportedly spent around $1.05 million of the money, which the court ordered him to pay back. The court, which said Batubara was "convincingly guilty of corruption," also banned him from public office for four years after serving his prison term.
They should provide a deterrent effect as well as recover assets resulting from corruption
Batubara denied any wrongdoing and his lawyer Maqdir Ismail said they were considering filing an appeal. "The sentence was very harsh," he said.
A Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) spokesman praised the prison sentence and the additional penalties.
“They should provide a deterrent effect as well as recover assets resulting from corruption,” Ali Fikri said.
Trisno Raharjo, a legal and human rights official at Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organization, called the sentence too lenient, especially as Batubara did not apologize for his actions.
"This shows he has no concern or compassion for people affected by the pandemic," he said.
Batubara was the fourth minister under President Joko Widodo to be convicted for graft.
They included former sports minister Imam Nahrawi, who was convicted and jailed for seven years on June 29 last year for accepting $1.4 million in bribes and gratuities.