Indonesian fisheries minister arrested for baby lobster graft

Indonesian fisheries minister arrested for baby lobster graft

Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo delivers a report to  the parliament in Jakarta on July 6. (Photo: AFP)
Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo delivers a report to the parliament in Jakarta on July 6. (Photo: AFP)

JAKARTA: Indonesia's fisheries minister has been arrested in a sweeping bust over allegations of graft linked to exporting baby lobsters, the anti-corruption agency said.

Edhy Prabowo and his lawmaker wife Iis Rosita Dewi were detined on Wednesday at Jakarta's international airport as they returned from a trip to the United States.

The couple were among 17 people arrested on allegations that they took bribes for issuing permits to export the crustaceans, investigators said. This year, Prabowo gave a green light to restarting baby lobster exports, a practice banned under his predecessor due to sustainability concerns.

"The arrest is related to a baby lobster export (permit)," Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) head Nurul Ghufron told AFP, without elaborating.

According to the corruption agency, a large sum of money moved from exporters to the fiheries minister through a forwarding company in return for giving approval for the lobster exports.

During a late-night press conference, commissioner Nawawi Pomolango alleged that the bribes totalled 9.8 billion rupiah (US$693,000) and that about $100,000 of it went directly into the minister's pocket.

The commissioner said 3.4 billion rupiah of the total was also transferred to an account of a staff member of Edhy's wife, allegedly to pay for expenses during the minister's visit to Hawaii from Saturday to Monday.

The commissioner said 750 million rupiah was used to buy luxury goods in Honolulu, "including a Rolex wristwatch, Tumi and Louis Vuitton bags, and an Old Navy shirt".

The six other suspects include two executives of the forwarding company and a director of a baby-lobster exporter. Two of them were still at large.

Following his arrest, the minister apologized in front of reporters and indicated his intention to resign.

Probowo is a close aide to Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, who joined the cabinet after losing to the incumbent in the presidential election last year. The president has named Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan as acting maritime affairs and fisheries minister.

Prabowo is the highest-ranking official to be arrested in a corruption case during President Joko Widodo's second term.

Corruption remains widespread in Indonesia and its parliament is seen as one of the most graft-riddled institutions.

In June, Indonesia's former sports minister was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of taking some $800,000 in bribes. Widodo pledged to tackle corruption as he kicked off a second term last year.

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