Indonesian sports minister quits over graft allegations

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 07:01 hrs

Jakarta: Indonesia's sports minister resigned on Friday after becoming the country's first active cabinet member to be named as a suspect in a multimillion dollar corruption case.

Youth and Sports Minister Andi Alfian Mallarangeng told a news conference in the capital, Jakarta, that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono accepted his resignation earlier Friday, the second such high-profile corruption case this week.

"I believe that the allegations against me as reported by the media are not true," said Mallarangeng, adding he would be cleared in the courts.

Corruption Eradication Commission chairman Abraham Samad told a news conference earlier on Friday that Mallarangeng is suspected of mismanaging the construction of a $122 million sports complex in the West Java town of Bogor.

Samad said Mallarangeng, also the secretary of the board of patrons of the ruling Democratic Party, will be charged with abusing power to enrich himself or others, which carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence.

On Thursday, the commission asked immigration to ban Mallarangeng and two other suspects, including his younger brother Andi Zulkarnaen Mallarangeng, from going abroad.

Mallarangeng has been questioned several times about the case. The party's treasurer, Muhammad Nazaruddin, is now serving a four-year jail term for involvement, and the trial of his deputy, Angelina Sondakh, is under way.

Nazaruddin has alleged that the Mallarangeng brothers received 20 billion rupiah ($21 million).

A government audit found the project was full of irregularities, which potentially caused up to 243 billion rupiah ($25 million) in losses to the state.

The agency also held Mallarangeng responsible for allowing his secretary to sign the project's procurement contract, which violates a government regulation requiring ministers to sign contracts worth than 50 billion rupiah ($52 million).

Mallarangeng's resignation comes after the commission on Tuesday detained Maj. Gen. Djoko Susilo as the main suspect in a high-profile graft case involving the procurement of driving simulators. He became the first active police general to be detained in a corruption case by the commission.

The cases — which underline Indonesia's challenge in changing its graft-ridden image — have threatened the credibility of the party's founder, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose 2009 campaign for re-election presented him as the "Mr. Clean" of Indonesian politics.

Hundreds of people have been arrested for alleged corruption since Yudhoyono took office, though critics note high-ranking officials have largely been left alone.

According to advocacy group Transparency International's corruption index, Indonesia ranks 118th out of 176 countries polled, down from 100th out of 183 the year before.

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