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Indonesia’s communication minister arrested in a corruption investigation

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The Indonesian minister of communication and information technology has been arrested in connection with a telecommunications project that resulted in a loss to the public exchequer of more than $500 million.

Johnny G Plate was arrested on Wednesday after appearing for questioning at the attorney general’s office in Jakarta, according to Kuntadi, the prosecutor’s office’s director of inquiry.

Plate was seen leaving the prosecutor’s office in handcuffs and a detainee pink vest. He did not react to queries from journalists.

If he is legally accused, it could further erode President Joko Widodo’s reputation in combatting corruption. His social affairs and fisheries ministers were recently imprisoned on corruption accusations in 2021.

The project began at the end of 2020 with the goal of addressing more than 7,900 dark spots in mobile coverage in Indonesia’s most rural, impoverished, and isolated locations, including Papua, Sulawesi, Borneo, Sumatra, and East Nusatenggara. According to ministry data, only 4,200 places have received the equipment so far, despite the fact that it was supposed to be completed this year.

According to Muhammad Yusuf Ateh, head of the prosecutor’s office’s development finance control, the corruption case is estimated to have cost the state 8 trillion rupiahs ($539 million). He stated that the losses included bogus payments for base stations that were never installed.

“Based on today’s investigation, we concluded that there has been sufficient evidence that he [Plate] was involved in a base transceiver stations corruption case,” said Kuntadi, the AGO’s investigative director for unusual crimes, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

Plate was seized alongside five other suspects, three of whom were private sector employees, after 60 persons were questioned about the procurement procedure.

His detention has fueled uncertainty about the destiny of his NasDem Party, which is a member of the government coalition along with seven other parties. NasDem had previously sponsored Anies Baswedan, a popular opposition leader, as a presidential candidate in 2024. Widodo has called his party a “outsider” in the partnership.

According to Transparency International, Indonesia shed four points on its corruption perception index last year, dropping to 110th out of 180 countries.

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