Indonesian energy minister Wacik named suspect in corruption case

Indonesian Energy Minister Jero Wacik speaks to journalists after appearing before the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in Jakarta, on December 2, 2013

Indonesia's energy minister was Wednesday named a suspect in a corruption case, the third member of the Cabinet to become embroiled in a graft scandal in recent times. Jero Wacik stands accused of extortion of state funds and abuse of power, and is suspected of swelling his ministry's budget by almost 10 billion rupiah ($850,000) through illicit activities, the agency said. "He demanded people in the ministry carry out several things so he could get bigger operational funds than budgeted," said Bambang Widjojanto, a senior official from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). These included collecting kickbacks and claiming money for arranging fictitious meetings, said Widjojanto. The KPK, which has won huge popularity by doggedly pursuing corruption suspects in one of the world's most graft-ridden countries, set its sights on Wacik last year after the head of the main energy regulator was found to have accepted kickbacks. Rudi Rubiandini was caught red-handed at his home in the capital Jakarta being handed stacks of US and Singapore dollars, and was jailed in April for seven years. Wacik had recommended Rubiandini for his position, and his regulatory body came under the authority of the energy ministry. There was no immediate reaction from Wacik, who was still at liberty. The KPK typically names people corruption suspects publicly and only detains them weeks or months later. Widjojanto said that the agency would seek to have a travel ban imposed on him as soon as possible, the normal procedure when people are named graft suspects. His arrest comes after the former sports minister was jailed for four years in July following a conviction for corruption linked to the construction of a sports stadium. He had stepped down from his Cabinet post after the scandal erupted. And in May, the religion minister quit after being accused of misusing funds that were supposed to help Muslims go on pilgrimage to Mecca. Wacik is a senior figure in the Democratic Party of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which has been hammered by corruption scandals and saw its popularity fall heavily at April legislative elections. Yudhoyono has ruled in a coalition with several other parties for the past decade, but in October will step down to make way for Joko Widodo, who is seen as a clean leader and has pledged to root out corruption. Indonesia is ranked 114th out of 177 countries and territories in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. A number one ranking means the least corrupt.