Indonesia minister detained for alleged corruption

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo was arrested along with more than a dozen others early yesterday.
Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo was arrested along with more than a dozen others early yesterday.

Indonesia's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo has been arrested for alleged corruption related to his ministry's decision to lift a ban on lobster larvae exports.

Mr Edhy was arrested along with more than a dozen others early yesterday at the country's main Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) acting spokesman Ali Fikri said in a statement.

"Among the 17 detained are the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister and his wife, several ministry officials and people from private companies," Mr Ali said, adding that KPK will interrogate the detainees for 24 hours.

Following news of the arrest, President Joko Widodo released a statement saying investigations are ongoing.

"I trust KPK as it works in a transparent, open and professional manner. The government is consistent in supporting efforts to prevent and eradicate corruption."

News website had reported the arrest. It said Mr Edhy was rounded up at 1.23am as he arrived from a trip to the United States. The report was later confirmed by KPK commissioner Nawawi Pomolango.

KPK deputy commissioner Nurul Ghufron told the agency was involved in the arrests.

"It's related to the export of lobster larvae," he added.

Mr Edhy was added to the list of Indonesian ministers and other high-profile figures detained by KPK in recent years.

In August 2018, then Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham was arrested by KPK for receiving bribes from a businessman. It was in exchange for his support for a power plant project in the Riau province.

The former minister was convicted last year by a district court and given three years' jail before the Supreme Court cut his sentence to two years.

In 2017, KPK nabbed and threw in jail for 15 years then Speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto for siphoning off funds from a national identity card procurement project.

KPK had also arrested rogue state prosecutors and active police generals.

Mr Edhy had in December last year reversed a policy introduced by his predecessor, Mr Susi Pudjiastuti, who placed a ban on the export of lobster larvae in 2016, citing conservation and economic reasons.

At a hearing in Parliament to reverse the policy, Mr Edhy told MPs that doing so would benefit fishermen and the state coffers.

He also argued that the lifting of the ban would not affect the mature lobster population, pointing out a research report which revealed that less than 1 per cent of lobster larvae reach maturity in their natural habitat.

Mr Charles Meikyansah, a member of the parliamentary committee overseeing environment and maritime affairs, told Jakarta-based Elshinta radio yesterday that the committee was split on the decision to lift the ban.

But they eventually supported the minister's motion, on condition that his ministry upholds sustainability and maintains transparency when selecting companies to export lobster larvae.

It later emerged that among the companies granted permission, one was linked to politicians with Gerindra, the political party Mr Edhy hails from.

The minister denied he was aware of this, insisting he was not directly involved in any operational decision to grant companies permission to export. He said a team, comprising senior bureaucrats in the ministry, had made the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2020, with the headline 'Indonesia minister detained for alleged corruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe