Fana Suparman, Jakarta – Former social affairs minister Juliari Peter Batubara was found guilty on Monday of accepting bribes in government's social assistance project for families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court also ordered Juliari to return Rp 14.6 billion ($1 million) to the state coffers or his jail term is added by another two years if the seizure of his asset fails to provide an equal amount of the stolen money, according to the verdict read out by Presiding Judge Muhammad Damis.
The panel didn't stop there.
"We have decided to inflict an additional punishment of revoking the defendant's rights to be elected for any public post for four years, in effect after he completes his main criminal punishment," Damis told the court.The sentence is more severe than previously recommended by prosecutors, who sought an 11 years' imprisonment for Juliari.
The presiding judge found a time to criticize Juliari for his persistent denial, saying that the defendant "is not man enough to take responsibility for his actions".
Under the Indonesian justice system, he can still appeal against the verdict at the Jakarta High Court and the Supreme Court.
Maqdir Ismali, an attorney for the defendant, said Juliari would need a week's time to decide whether he would lodge an appeal.
The young politician of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is accused of accepting Rp 32.2 billion 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 ($409 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 last 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.