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Former Indonesian Agriculture Minister Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Corruption

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's anti-corruption court sentenced a former agriculture minister to 10 years in prison Thursday after finding him guilty of corruption-related extortion, abuse of power and bribery involving ministry contracts with private vendors.

Syahrul Yasin Limpo is the sixth member of President Joko Widodo's cabinet to be sentenced to prison in a corruption case, casting a shadow over his efforts to clean up the government in the final months of his administration.

The Jakarta court found the former minister guilty of abusing his power by enriching himself and other officials. It also ordered him to pay a fine of 300 million rupiah ($18,500) and said he would face an additional four months in prison if he did not pay.

“The defendant was found guilty of corruption legally and convincingly,” said Judge Rianto Adam Pontoh. “He has not set a good example as a public official. He has thwarted the government’s efforts to fight corruption and has enriched himself through corruption.”

Limpo was arrested last October by the Corruption Eradication Commission, known as the KPK. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Several ministry officials testified during the trial that the ministry’s secretariats, directorates and agencies were forced to hand over 20 percent of their budgets to Limpo, as if they owed him, and that he threatened them with losing their jobs if they rejected his demands. Vendors and suppliers were also asked to set aside money to meet the then minister’s demands, the trial heard.

Limpo used the money to buy luxury cars, gifts and apartments, to hire private jets, for parties and family gatherings, as well as for religious celebrations and pilgrimages. Limpo also used the bribes to provide humanitarian aid to disaster victims and to his political party Nasdem.

Prosecutors, who have sought 12 years in prison for Limpo, said the politician accepted a total of 44.7 billion rupiah ($2.7 million) between January 2020 and October 2023.

In their indictment, prosecutors accuse Limpo of ordering his two subordinates, Kasdi Subagyono and Muhammad Hatta, to collect the illicit money. They were both sentenced to four years in prison in separate cases.

At the trial, Limpo said he had been the victim of political persecution and believed he had been slandered by subordinates within his ministry who feared being replaced or dismissed.

“Since the beginning of the investigation into this case, efforts have been made to manipulate public opinion by using wild and misleading accusations to portray me as a greedy person,” Syahrul told the court.

“I have never received any information about their objection to any of my orders,” Limpo said. “If they think it is wrong, they should first consult me ​​and discuss it with me.”

After the jury read the verdict, Limpo and prosecutors told the court they planned to appeal.

Limpo, a former governor of South Sulawesi, is the second Nasdem party politician to be prosecuted in recent years. Johnny G. Plateformer Minister of Communication, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2023 for corruption while overseeing the construction of mobile phone transmission towers in remote areas of the country.

Corruption is endemic in Indonesia, and the country's anti-corruption commission is frequently attacked by lawmakers who want reduce his powers.

Widodo campaigned partly on a promise to lead a clean government in a country ranked 115th out of 180 nations in the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International.

Like Widodo, President-elect Prabowo Subianto pledged to fight corruption after taking office in October.

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