Former Indonesian information minister sentenced to 15 years for corruption

Arie Firdaus
Former Indonesian information minister sentenced to 15 years for corruption Former Indonesian Communication and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate (left) talks to his lawyers at the anti-corruption court in Jakarta, Nov. 8, 2023.
Achmad Ibrahim/AP

Jakarta’s anti-corruption court sentenced a former communication and information technology minister to 15 years in prison on Wednesday after finding him guilty of accepting bribes in a half billion-dollar corruption case.

Johnny G. Plate, who was arrested in May, is the fifth cabinet minister in nearly a decade of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s tenure to be embroiled in a graft case, fueling criticism that Jokowi eroded anti-corruption measures during his two terms.

“The court found the defendant Johnny Gerard Plate guilty of committing the crime of corruption and sentenced the defendant to 15 years in prison,” said Fahzal Hendri, chairman of the three-judge panel at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court.

The court found that when Johnny served as minister he accepted 11.5 billion rupiah (U.S. $736,000) from contractors as kickbacks in a project to build a cellular network in remote areas of Indonesia, as part of Jokowi’s digital transformation agenda.

On Wednesday, the anti-corruption court sentenced two other defendants in the case who worked at the ministry that oversaw the project to 18 years and five years in prison.

The $1.8 billion project began in 2020 and targeted installing 10,000 base transceiver stations (BTS) in thousands of villages, especially in the outermost and most isolated regions, to improve internet access and economic development.

But it was plagued by corruption that involved inflating the project’s cost by commissioning supporting studies, raising material prices and paying for base stations that were not built, officials said.

The government paid the full amount for the project, which was only 80% completed, resulting in state losses of 8 trillion rupiah ($512 million), prosecutors told the judges hearing the case.

The attorney general’s office has named a total of 16 suspects in the case.

Last week, it named a senior official from the Supreme Audit Agency, Achsanul Qosasi, who allegedly accepted 40 billion rupiah ($2.56 million) in bribes to influence the audit process, according to Indonesian media.

Tibiko Zabar, an Indonesia Corruption Watch researcher, urged the attorney general’s office to investigate the audit agency to determine whether their work was accurate and followed procedure.

“There might be something missing. Maybe some members of the agency are involved in influencing the audit,” he told BenarNews.

“That’s why it’s crucial to investigate whether there are other members involved.”


Johnny, a member of the National Democratic Party, denied any wrongdoing, saying that he was made a scapegoat.

“[They] threw all the blame on me and made me a trash can of mistakes,” he told the court. “I didn’t know where … the funds came from.”

His lawyer said he would appeal. Defendants have a week to do so following their convictions.

Additionally, Johnny’s arrest in May sparked a political storm as his party accused the government of targeting its members after it endorsed opposition politician and former Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan as a presidential candidate for the 2024 election.

At the time, investigators said Johnny’s younger brother, Gregorius Alex, was questioned on suspicion of receiving 534 million rupiah ($34,200) from the project despite having no official position in the ministry. They noted he had returned the money.

Meanwhile, as of May 2022, only 1,179 base stations of the planned 10,000 were built on the 4G cellular project. The technology ministry was responsible for 7,904 of them, while the rest were assigned to the private sector.

Officials said the project ran into trouble because of the COVID-19 pandemic, production problems and security issues, especially in Papua province where separatist rebels have attacked government facilities.

16 suspects

Johnny’s case exposed the deep-rooted problem of corruption in Indonesia, which ranks 110 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perception Index. The most-recent annual index showed Indonesia scored 34 out of a possible 100, indicating a high level of corruption.

The malady allegedly affects even the highest levels.

For instance, police are investigating the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman, Firli Bahuri, for allegedly demanding money from the former agriculture minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo in exchange for dropping or reducing graft charges against him.

Syahrul resigned last month after KPK, the country’s independent anti-graft agency, summoned him for questioning on suspicion he solicited bribes from subordinates.

Jokowi, who is in his second and final term, has faced criticism for undermining the commission, which has been weakened by a law passed in 2019 by a parliament dominated by his allies.

The law puts the commission under the executive branch and limits its powers to investigate and prosecute graft cases. The commission has also faced resistance and hostility from some politicians and government officials who have accused it of being biased and politicized.


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