Jakarta – The Jakarta Corruption Court sentenced former communications and information minister Johnny G. Plate to 15 years in prison on Wednesday for accepting kickbacks worth billions of rupiah from inflated procurement contracts for a government 4G telephony project.
The sentence was largely in line with the prosecution's demands.
The panel of three judges concluded that Johnny had received at least Rp 11.5 billion (US$734,824) in kickbacks from Anang Achmad Latif, who headed the ministry's Telecommunications and Information Accessibility Agency (BAKTI), which led the project to erect thousands of 4G base transceiver stations (BTS) in underdeveloped regions.
Johnny had also demanded more kickbacks that he used to enrich other defendants in the case, mostly vendors in the project, the court found.
The judges concluded that Johnny had colluded with other defendants, including Anang, to devise the scheme. Johnny himself was found to have approved a scale-up of the project without supporting data or business plans.
The judges ordered him to pay Rp 15.5 billion in restitution or serve an additional two years in prison. This was lower than the Rp 17.8 billion demanded by the prosecutors from the Attorney General's Office (AGO).
The judges cited the fact that Johnny had not admitted to any wrongdoing and that his crime undermined the government's corruption eradication efforts as aggravating circumstances, as well as his polite behavior in the courtroom and him having a family as mitigating factors.
Johnny's lawyer said his client would appeal.
The court also sentenced Anang to 18 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the case and University of Indonesia (UI) human development expert Yohan Suryanto to 5 years in prison for creating fake research to support Anang's marked-up prices.
The BTS project began in 2020, a year after Johnny was installed as minister in October 2019. Led by the ministry's agency BAKTI, the initiative planned to build around 8,000 4G BTS towers in underdeveloped and outermost regions by 2023 at a total price of some Rp 28 trillion.
The project was supposed to be carried out in two phases, with 4,200 BTS towers to be erected by 2021 in the first phase. The deadline was later pushed back to March 2022, by which time only one fourth of the towers had been constructed, a major delay that raised suspicions of corruption.
The judges said on Wednesday that the botched procurement had caused some Rp 6.2 billion in state losses.
The government said earlier this year that the multi-trillion-rupiah telephony project would continue so that further state losses could be avoided.
Johnny of the NasDem Party was removed from the cabinet in May, not long after he was named a suspect in the BTS graft case. He was temporarily replaced by Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD until President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo appointed his loyalist Budi Arie Setiadi as the definite communications minister in July.
At the time, some observers speculated that Johnny's arrest was politically motivated given that his party was backing opposition figurehead Anies Baswedan in the 2024 presidential race, a notion that the AGO denied.
Johnny was the first of two NasDem ministers implicated in corruption this year. Last month, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested then-agriculture minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo on accusations of soliciting and accepting bribes from officials in the ministry.
The AGO, meanwhile, is currently expanding its probe by looking into suspected attempts to ward off scrutiny of the inflated BTS procurement deals.
Earlier this month, AGO investigators named Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) official Achsanul Qosasi a suspect for allegedly accepting Rp 40 billion in bribes paid by a vendor for the telephony project. They suspected the money had been paid to stymie inquiries about why the project had been moving so slowly. (alf)