Jakarta – Indonesian prosecutors on Wednesday recommended a sentence of 11 years' imprisonment for former social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara who stands trial for allegedly taking illegal payment in government's assistance program intended for low-income families during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prosecutors also told the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court that Juliari must return Rp 14.5 billion in stolen money to the state coffer or his jail term is added by another two years.
"The crime was committed at a time of an emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic," prosecutor Ikhsan Fernandi told the court while reading out the demand, as he argued why the defendant deserves the punishment.
In addition, the court was asked to strip Juliari of his "political rights" for four years after he completes his sentence, meaning that he can't participate in elections during that period.
The defendant has twisted testimonies and refused to admit his crime, prosecutors said.
Juliari, a former politician with the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), is accused of accepting Rp 32.2 billion ($2.2 million) from businessmen who won government contract to provide and distribute basic supplies for the poor during the pandemic.
The project supervised by the Social Affairs Ministry is worth Rp 5.9 trillion ($407 million).
He allegedly took Rp 10,000 from each package containing food, cooking oil and other supplies, while also receiving payment from contractors.
Juliari, 49, was detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) last December and immediately dismissed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, only 14 months after taking office.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
Juliari is the fourth sitting minister in the Jokowi cabinet to be implicated with graft charges.
Several weeks before he surrendered himself to the KPK, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo was arrested upon arrival from his Hawaii trip for alleged corruption related to export license of lobster larvae, which was banned by his predecessor Susi Pudjiastuti.
Edhy was sentenced to five years in prison by the same court earlier this month.
Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi and Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham were already convicted two years ago for corruption.
The latter was convicted guilty of corruption unrelated to his ministerial job, while Imam is serving a jail term for accepting bribe while in office.