A former Indonesian cabinet minister, Juliari Batubara, has been sentenced to 12 years of jail for accepting bribes amounting to Rp32.4 billion (S$3.05 million) from vendors that provide Covid-19 aid packages, reported Reuters.
The 49-year-old was also fined Rp500 million (S$47,000) and ordered to return Rp14.5 billion (S$1.37 million) of the embezzled funds that he used for personal expenses.
The sentence is reportedly one year longer than what prosecutors were initially seeking, and failure to pay the fine could result in an additional six months of jail for the politician, as per The Jakarta Post.
Millions of cash stuffed in suitcases
According to Reuters, Juliari was named as a suspect in the bribery case in Dec. 2020, along with four other people.
Authorities reportedly found Rp14.5 billion (S$1.37 million) of cash stuffed in suitcases, backpacks, and envelopes a day before the ex-minister turned himself in, as per the BBC.
The judge said that the politician is "convincingly guilty of corruption", after he was found to have intervened with the tender process in exchange for kickbacks from the vendors, reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, Juliari has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer is reportedly considering an appeal as he thinks the sentence is too harsh.
The politician will also be banned from holding positions in public offices for four years after serving his prison term.
NGO urges life sentence for Juliari
Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), reportedly urged the judges to deliver a life sentence for Juliari's offences, according to Tempo.co.
ICW researcher Kurnia Ramadhan said that Juliari's sentence should be increased, as he "committed a crime while serving as a public official".
The former minister's offence was also carried out in the midst of the pandemic, and "it shows that corruption committed by Juliari caused significant impacts, both in terms of economy and health, for the community,” Kurnia added.
Indonesia's Covid-19 battle
Indonesia recorded 9,604 cases of Covid-19 infections on Aug. 23, bringing the total to 3,989,060.
Another reason offered by Kurnia is that the politician did not admit to his wrongdoings despite two other suspects having been legally proven to have bribed him.
The ICW researcher also elaborated that a severe sentence would send a strong message to public officials to not engage in corrupt practices.
Even so, ICW reportedly thinks that a life sentence is not sufficient to punish Juliari, and asked for additional sentences such as fines and revocation of political rights.
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Top image via Juliari Menyapa/Facebook & KPK RI/Youtube