JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In a landmark ruling, the Jakarta Military Court has sentenced a one-star Indonesian Military (TNI) general to life for embezzling US$12 million (S$17.18 million) through defence weaponry procurement between 2010 and 2014.
The verdict, which was read out in an open hearing on Wednesday (Nov 30), sent a positive signal that the TNI and the Defence Ministry were serious in cracking down on corruption, which allegedly plagues the nation's weapon procurement deals.
The general identified as Brigadier-General Teddy Hernayadi was found guilty of transferring the US$12 million of state money to his bank accounts when he served as the Defence Ministry's finance division head from 2010 to 2014.
The ministry's inspector-general Hadi Tjahjanto said the ministry appreciated the ruling because not only did it sentence Teddy to life in prison for his offences, but also demanded he return the US$12 million to the state coffers.
"We are waiting for the defendant to comply with ruling and return the embezzled money to the state," Mr Hadi told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
He further said a team from the ministry who had observed the months-long trial discovered that Teddy was not the only perpetrator, adding that the ministry would resume investigations into the case to pursue more suspects both from the ministry and private sector who allegedly received shares of the embezzled money.
The inspector-general hoped that the verdict would serve as a warning for other ministry officials on the severity of embezzlement.
"We will follow up the ruling to find out who the other recipients of the embezzled money are. Around 53 witnesses confirmed that they had accepted money (from Teddy). If the 53 witnesses include civilians, we will let the National Police investigate them," Mr Hadi said.
Mr Hadi said the case started when the ministry's inspectorate-general discovered US$12 million had been funnelled from the ministry to Teddy's bank accounts in 2014.
"The ruling was expected but nonetheless was appreciated (by the ministry). The ministry will continue to carry out internal reforms," Mr Hadi said.
Meanwhile, Teddy reportedly said he would use the seven days given by the court to decide whether to appeal against the sentence to the Jakarta High Military Court.
Separately, military expert Al Araf said the verdict confirmed long-standing public suspicions that the country's procurement of defense systems was marred with corruption, thus, it was important for the ministry to probe past procurement deals.
"In the past, we have heard about alleged corruption concerning the procurement of Sukhoi (fighter jets), Leopard tanks and missiles from Brazil. The verdict should open the door for President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's administration to investigate the procurement of defence weaponry in the past," Al Araf said.
He said the ministry should ask the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for assistance in the investigation of past cases.
By 2024, the country expects to have reached its minimum essential force requirement. Some 150 trillion rupiah (S$15.8 billion) was spent to pay for the modernisation of the nation's weapons-defence system between 2010 and 2014.
KPK chairman Agus Rahardjo said the anti-graft body was ready to assist the ministry, adding that the KPK was closely monitoring the process of Teddy's trial at the military court.
"We are monitoring the hearing," Mr Agus said.