Indonesia communications minister arrested for graft

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Indonesian Communications and Informatics Minister Johnny G. Plate, walks at the Attorney General's Office following accusations of corruption in Jakarta

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian authorities on Wednesday arrested a senior cabinet minister on corruption charges in a case they said caused more than half a billion dollars in state losses.

Johnny G. Plate is the fifth minister in President Joko Widodo's administrations to be charged with corruption. Most recently, his social affairs and fisheries ministers were jailed in 2021 for graft.

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) said Johnny was arrested for his involvement in the procurement of equipment needed to build thousands of communications towers, which his ministry said in 2020 would bring the internet to thousands of villages.

Johnny was arrested "as a user of the budget and as a minister", said AGO official Kuntadi, without detailing the minister's specific role.

Another official Ketut Sumedana said the minister allegedly violated Indonesia's corruption law, which carries a maximum life sentence.

In response to the arrest, the communications ministry said in a statement it will abide by the legal process and that its public services would not be hampered by the case.

Meanwhile, the office of President Jokowi, as he is known locally, said the arrest was unexpected.

"On many occasions, the president has reminded officials to to work carefully," said Jaleswari Pramodhawardhani, an official with the presidential office.

A lawyer for the minister could not be immediately reached for comment.

The alleged corruption cost about 8 trillion rupiah ($544 million) in state losses, the AGO said.

According to global graft watchdog Transparency International, Indonesia dropped four points on its corruption perception index last year to 110 out of 180 countries.

($1 = 14,695.0000 rupiah)

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Additional reporting by Ananda Teresia; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)