28 November 2020
Edhy Prabowo, Maritime and fisheries minister and his wife, also a lawmaker, were detained at a Jakarta airport on their return from the United States.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said that fifteen others were arrested early on Wednesday at various locations around the capital. The arrests were made following an investigation into the export of lobsters. It was later reported that Prabowo and five other officials and a businessman allegedly took bribes in exchange for permits related to exports of lobster larvae and other commodities this year. Altogether 31 licences were issued some of those went to companies whose owners, directors or executives were politicians from Edhy’s Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, formerly a rival to President Jokowi’s party.
Lobsters are among the most profitable fishery product in Indonesia, and their larvae have long been smuggled. In 2019 the illegal export of lobster hatchlings and larvae resulted in loss of revenue of around $64 million, according to a national money laundering watchdog group.
Export of baby lobsters, was banned, up until the middle of this year, as a measure to replenish stocks. Prabowo rolled back the ban put in place by his predecessor. That decision was criticised by his predecessor and activists over sustainability concerns.
At a press conference, KPK commissioner Nawawi Pomolango said that of the total of US$693,000 bribe was taken and at least $100,000 went directly into the minister’s pocket. Another $241,400 was also transferred to an account of a staff member of Edhy’s wife, allegedly to pay for expenses during the minister’s visit to Hawaii from Saturday to Monday.
The Commissioner also said that another $53,250 was used to buy luxury goods in Honolulu, including a Rolex wristwatch, Tumi and Louis Vuitton bags, and an Old Navy shirt.
Prabowo is a close aide to Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, who joined the cabinet after losing to the incumbent in the presidential election last year.
No doubt the arrest looks bad for Jokowi who came to power on his promise to root out corruption. In August 2018, former Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham was sentenced to two years in jail for receiving bribes from a businessman in exchange for his support for a power plant project in the Riau province. Former speaker of parliament Setya Novanto was jailed for 15 years for siphoning-off funds from a national identity card procurement project. In June, Indonesia’s former sports minister was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of taking some $800,000 in bribes.
Despite constant attempts by the parliament to weaken the power of KPK, including a September 2019 amendment to the 2002 KPK Law, the commission has shown a remarkable degree of fearlessness and independence. Parliamentarians are one of the most corrupt groups in Indonesia. Despite their parliamentary immunity, they wanted to have more leeway to carry on their corrupt activities. Hence they watered down KPK’s powers.
Bangkok post reported.