Indonesian minister arrested for alleged corruption in 4G project

Arie Firdaus
Indonesian minister arrested for alleged corruption in 4G project Indonesian Communications and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate at the Attorney General’s Office following accusations of corruption in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 17, 2023.
Antara Foto/Reuters

Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET on 2023-05-17

Indonesia’s communication and information technology minister was arrested Wednesday for his alleged role in a corruption case that authorities say caused more than half a billion dollars in state losses.

Johnny G. Plate was taken into custody after questioning at the attorney general’s office in Jakarta on suspicion of “misusing his authority to enrich himself,” said Kuntadi, the office’s director of investigation. Plate could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

“Based on the results of the examination today, there is sufficient evidence that he is involved in the corruption case around the 4G cellular towers infrastructure project,” Kuntadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told reporters on Wednesday. 

President Joko Widodo, who is known as Jokowi, pledged to fight corruption and improve governance when he came to office in 2014 as part of his agenda to attract foreign investment and boost economic growth. 

However, Plate is the fifth minister in Jokowi’s cabinet since he came to power in 2014 to be arrested in a corruption case, raising fresh questions about efforts to stamp out graft.

The 4G project started in late 2020 with a budget of U.S. $739 million and was expected to be completed this year. It aimed to build 4G infrastructure in 7,904 locations that lacked mobile phone services, especially in underdeveloped regions. 

But irregularities in the procurement process and the selection of contractors have caused estimated state losses of 8.32 trillion rupiah ($559 million), investigators said. Indonesia’s state audit body said as of May 2022, only 1,179 base transceiver stations had been built.

“This case is strategic. This project was intended for many people in remote areas, where the communities need it most,” said Ketut Sumedana, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. 

“For that reason, it will not stop here. The attorney general’s office has an obligation to guard this project until it is finished.”

Plate has not commented publicly on the allegations. His lawyer, Muhammad Ali Nurdin, said Wednesday his client would cooperate with the authorities and prove his innocence. 

Authorities have named several other suspects in the case, including the director of an agency under the ministry that carried out the project, a consultant and executives from two private companies involved in the project.

Plate’s younger brother, Gregorius Alex, has also been questioned on suspicion of receiving 534 million rupiah ($35,000) from the project despite having no official position in the ministry, investigators said, adding he has since returned the money.

Indonesia has long struggled with graft and ranked 110th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perception Index. 

Critics say corruption is endemic in Southeast Asia’s largest economy and point to the weakening of the Corruption Eradication Commission under a controversial law passed in 2019 as an attempt to systematically reduce oversight. 


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.