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Indonesia’s Agriculture Minister Resigns Amid Corruption Investigation

Indonesia’s agriculture minister resigned Thursday as the country’s anti-graft commission ramped up an investigation into alleged corruption at his ministry.

The Corruption Eradication Commission, known as KPK, has alleged that there has been bribery linked to job promotions at the Agriculture Ministry as well as fraudulent projects involving private vendors, but it has not disclosed details.

Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo, though not yet been formally named as a suspect, said Thursday that he was resigning to focus on the case against him, and that he hopes the public will assume he is innocent until there is a court verdict.

“Don’t judge me first. Let the legal process proceed, and I’m ready to face it,” Limpo told a news conference in Jakarta.

Limpo was on working visit to Italy and Spain when the KPK searched his official residence in Jakarta last week. He returned to Jakarta late Wednesday.

KPK’s spokesperson Ali Fikri told a news conference shortly after the search that investigators had discovered about a dozen firearms and banknotes worth approximately 30 billion rupiah in several currencies ($1.9 million) at Limpo’s residence. They also had seized several documents.

Fikri said that his office cannot disclose the names of suspects because the case is ongoing. However, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Muhammad Mahfud, told reporters Wednesday that he has information indicating Limpo would be formally named as a suspect.

Limpo, a former South Sulawesi governor, is the second politician from the Nasdem Party to face recent prosecution. A trial is continuing for Johnny G. Plate, a former communication minister, over allegations of $533 million in graft in the procurement of equipment for a 4G communications project.

Nasdem Party is part of the ruling government coalition with seven other parties, but last November it endorsed a popular opposition politician, Anies Baswedan, as a presidential candidate in 2024. That prompted President Joko Widodo to refer to the party as an “outsider” in his coalition.

The cases against Plate and Limpo are likely to harm Nasdem’s chances in elections scheduled for February 2024, including its nomination of Baswedan, a former Jakarta governor, for president.

Fikri, the KPK spokesman, denied that the case against Limpo has any political motives.

Limpo appeared briefly at his ministry on Thursday before showing up for questioning at the Jakarta police headquarters. No arrest was made, and police declined to comment to the media after the questioning.

Limpo later told a news conference at Nasdem Party headquarters that he has submitted a resignation letter to President Widodo because he wants to focus on facing the case against him. “I hope that there will be no stigma,” Limpo said.

Limpo has frequently traveled overseas in recent months. He missed a KPK summons for an interrogation in mid-June due to a visit to India, although he honored the summons later that month.

He said that his trips overseas are to “strengthen cooperation in agricultural modernization and facilitate export markets for Indonesian agricultural products.”

“My traveling is for the benefit of the people. I have to feed nearly 280 million people,” Limpo said.

He added that during his decades-long career as a public official, it was the first time he has been involved in a legal process.

Source: https://apnews.com/article/indonesia-agriculture-minister-resign-corruption-109f71bc2653d1428cdfc620ee78be52

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