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Indonesian graft busters raid Religious Minister's office

Move comes after party chief, ministry officials arrested for alleged bribery

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Indonesian graft busters raid Religious Minister's office

Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin (with glasses) says that he will cooperate with investigators in the corruption case involving ministry officials and United Development Party chairman Muhammad Romahurmuziy. (Photo supplied)

Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission has raided the office of Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, as part of a graft probe following the arrest last week of an Islamist party chief and two ministry officials.

The raid on March 18 came three days after the commission arrested the chairman of the United Development Party, Muhammad Romahurmuziy, who is also a key ally of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

The minister belongs to the same party and is the only party member in Widodo’s cabinet.

Romahurmuziy was arrested along with Haris Hasanuddin, the head of the Religious Affairs Ministry’s East Java provincial office and Muhammad Muafaq Wirahadi, the head of a ministry district office.

Commission spokesman, Febri Diansyah, said the raid was in connection with Romahurmuziy’s arrest. He is suspected of accepting about US$21,500 in kickbacks for helping both ministry officials get their posts.

“It was suspected that there was evidence relevant to the case at the ministry," news portal Tempo.co quoted Diansyah as saying when commenting on the raid on Saifuddin’s office.

A number of documents and an undisclosed amount of money was seized during the raid.

However, the commission did not say whether the minister was involved.

Saifuddin promised to cooperate with investigators.

"The ministry will fire the arrested officials if they are guilty," the minister told reporters.

Romahurmuziy is not the first leader from his party to become embroiled in a corruption scandal. Former United Development Party chairman Suryadharma Ali, was sentenced to ten years in 2016 for embezzling hajj funds when he served as Religious Affairs Minister.

Those accused in the latest scandal could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of between $21,500 and $71,500.

Prior to the arrest, Romahurmuziy was a member of Widodo’s campaign team for next month’s presidential election.

Petrus Selestinus, a lawyer and coordinator of the Indonesian Democracy Defender Team said the arrest would not likely affect Widodo’s campaign.

“The president will not intervene as his stance on graft is well known,” said Selestinus who is also running for a parliamentary seat for the People’s Conscience Party, one of Widodo’s allies.

Lucius Karus, a Catholic political analyst from Indonesian Parliament Watch, said Romahurmuziy’s arrest was not very surprising.

“A lack of transparency in organizational management and an oligarchic tradition within political parties have made them prone to corruption,” he said.

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