Indonesia: Ex-Fisheries Minister Sentenced to 5 Years on Bribery Charges

Arie Firdaus
Indonesia: Ex-Fisheries Minister Sentenced to 5 Years on Bribery Charges Former Indonesia Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo sits in a police vehicle after being sentenced to five years following his bribery conviction, July 15, 2021.

An Indonesian court on Thursday ordered the former fisheries minister to spend five years in prison for his role – along with his staff – in taking U.S. $1.7 million in bribes to issue permits for baby-lobster exports, making him the third member of the president’s cabinet sentenced on graft charges.

Edhy Prabowo was arrested at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in November 2020 after returning from a trip to Hawaii, during which he used the ill-gotten money to purchase designer bags and watches, according to prosecutors.

“The defendant was proven beyond reasonable doubt of a criminal act of corruption,” presiding judge Albertus Usada ruled at the Jakarta Corruption Court.

“As the minister of marine affairs and fisheries, the defendant failed to set a good example as a public official by using the proceeds of a criminal act of corruption,” he said.

The court ordered Edhy to pay $737,000 in restitution or serve an additional two years in prison. The judge also banned him from running for public office for three years after completing his sentence.

The court also sentenced two of Edhy’s aides at the fisheries ministry – Andreu Misanta Pribadi and Safri – to 4½ years in prison each.

Amirul Mukminin, a personal aide to Edhy’s wife, and Siswadi Pranoto, the owner of the company seeking an import permit, were each sentenced to four years.

Prosecutors charged Edhy along with his staff, with accepting $77,000 and 24.6 billion rupiah ($1.69 million) in bribes.

Edhy, who denied wrongdoing, said he was considering an appeal.

“I am sad that this is not in accordance with the facts of the trial,” Edhy said after the verdict was read out.

“But this is how the justice system works here. Give me time to think,” he said.

He had a different response at the time of his arrest last year.

“I take responsibility for what happened. I apologize to the people of Indonesia, especially those connected to the fisheries and marine affairs ministry,” Edhy told reporters at the time.

After the sentencing, defense attorney Soesilo Aribowo said his client was not guilty and should have been acquitted.

“He (Edhy) never intervened in the activities of subordinates he delegated tasks to, so he did not know about any money being given from the private sector,” Soesilo told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, Kurnia Ramadhana, a researcher at Indonesia Corruption Watch, said the court should have given Edhy a heavier sentence.

“The crime of corruption was committed during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing he had no sensitivities at all,” Kurnia told BenarNews. 

Corruption cases

As fisheries minister, Edhy lifted a ban on baby-lobster exports introduced by his predecessor, Susi Pudjiastuti. She had said the ban was to protect the sustainability of the ecosystem and strengthen the domestic lobster industry.

Susi became famous for Indonesia’s blowing up of foreign boats whose crews had been fishing illegally in local waters.

Edhy had defended his decision to allow exports of baby lobsters, saying many fishermen depended on lobster larvae farming for a living.

Prior to being appointed minister, Edhy served as a legislator representing the Gerindra Party, the country’s second largest party founded by retired Gen. Prabowo Subianto (no relation). Prabowo Subianto, who was the runner-up to Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in both the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections, serves as defense minister in the second Jokowi administration.

Edhy is one of four members of various cabinets under Jokowi to be embroiled in corruption cases. When Jokowi, the former mayor of Jakarta and Solo, ran for the presidency in 2014, he campaigned on an electoral promise of ridding government of corruption – a chronic ailment in Southeast Asia’s largest country.

In 2019, Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham was sentenced to five years in prison for receiving a bribe in connection with a coal-power project. He later saw his sentence cut to two years and was paroled last year.

In 2020, the sports and youth minister from Jokowi’s first term, Imam Nahrawi, was sentenced to seven years for accepting bribes in return for approving funding for the Indonesian Sports Committee.

Juliari Batubara, a politician from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, is on trial for allegedly embezzling more than $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds when he was minister of social affairs last year.

His ministry allegedly asked for a fee of 10,000 rupiah (less than $1) for every food pack in a COVID-19 aid program valued at 5.9 trillion rupiah ($407 million), according to the Corruption Eradication Commission.


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