May 23, 2023
Indonesia's communications minister, Johnny G. Plate, has been arrested for alleged bribe-taking in relation to a failed 4G network construction project.
Authorities say the state incurred losses of 8.32 trillion Indonesian rupiah (US$559 million) over the scheme, which was intended to build out 4G to 7,904 rural villages.
Plate was arrested last Wednesday after submitting voluntarily to an interview by investigators. He is being held in a detention center for 20 days.
Figure 1: Indonesia's comms minister could face charges over bribery allegations.
(Source: Ivan Kmit/Alamy Stock Photo)
Mukti Ali, an executive with the local Huawei subsidiary, and four other people connected to the scheme are also under investigation, Indonesia Business Post reported.
According to the Business Post, the 4G project was anticipated to supply 4,200 mobile towers in some of Indonesia's most remote villages with a budget of IDR17.3 trillion ($1.16 billion), starting in 2021. But an investigation found just 985 towers had been completed and the network is unusable, said Mahfud MD, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
An official in the Presidential Staff Office said Plate would be replaced as soon as possible.
Plate is the secretary-general of the NasDem party, one of seven governing coalition partners, and has held the post of minister for communications and informatics since 2019.
MIIT boss fired over corruption
Plate is the fifth minister in the Widodo government to be charged over alleged corruption offenses since 2019. But he is not the only Asian comms minister to face charges in the past 12 months.
Last July, the then head of China's Ministry of Industry and IT (MIIT), Xiao Yaqing, was put under investigation for "suspected violation of discipline and law" – communist party-speak for a corruption probe.
Xiao was formally dismissed from the post in December and demoted to the lowest rung of the civil service. He was allowed to retire without further penalty after "admitting his mistakes and refunding the full amount of his illegal gains." As is the practice, details of his corrupt behavior were not disclosed.
The proximity of top officials to big projects and large wads of public cash, along with a lack of oversight and transparency, have made corruption a continuing blight on Asian economic development. Anti-corruption organization Transparency International has warned that government efforts to contain corruption have waned in some Asian countries in recent years. In the latest Transparency International corruption perceptions index, Indonesia ranked 110th out of 180 countries, down four places from the previous year.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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