Indonesia’s communication minister arrested in corruption case

The arrest of Johnny G Plate dents President Joko Widodo’s reputation in fighting corruption.

Minister Johnny G Plate
Minister Johnny G Plate (in a pink vest) walks at the attorney general's office following accusations of corruption in Jakarta [Reno Esnir/Antara Foto via Reuters]

Indonesia’s communication and information technology minister has been arrested in a corruption case related to a telecommunications project that resulted in a loss of more than $500m to the state exchequer.

Johnny G Plate was taken into custody on Wednesday after showing up for questioning at the attorney general’s office in the capital, Jakarta, said Kuntadi, the director of investigation at the prosecutor’s office.

Footage showed Plate leaving the prosecutor’s office in handcuffs and wearing a detainee pink vest. He did not respond to journalists’ questions.

If he is formally charged, it may further tarnish President Joko Widodo’s credibility when it comes to fighting corruption. Most recently, his social affairs and fisheries ministers were jailed in 2021 on corruption charges.

The project was initiated at the end of 2020 to handle more than 7,900 dark spots in mobile coverage in Indonesia’s outermost, underdeveloped and remote areas of Papua, Sulawesi, Borneo, Sumatra and East Nusatenggara. Due to be completed this year, the ministry data showed that only 4,200 locations have received the equipment so far.

It is believed that the corruption case cost the state 8 trillion rupiahs ($539m), said Muhammad Yusuf Ateh, head of the development finance control at the prosecutor’s office. He said the losses included fictitious payments for the base stations that have not been built.

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

Plate was apprehended along with five other suspects, including three from the private sector, after some 60 people were questioned about the procurement process.

His arrest also sparked speculation over the fate of his NasDem Party, which is part of the government coalition with seven others. NasDem had earlier endorsed a popular opposition politician, Anies Baswedan, as a presidential candidate in 2024. Widodo has referred to the party as an “outsider” in the coalition.

According to global corruption watchdog Transparency International, Indonesia dropped four points on its corruption perception index last year to 110 out of 180 countries.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies