The Jakarta Post
Former energy and mineral resources minister Jero Wacik accepted a four-year prison sentence from the Jakarta Corruption Court with a smile on Tuesday, putting the light sentence down to favorable testimonies from his erstwhile superiors.
The court found Jero guilty of accepting bribes and misusing around Rp 5 billion (US$365,000) in ministerial operational funds for his family members when serving as tourism minister and later energy minister in the administration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The sentence is less than half the nine years sought by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) prosecutors, who accused Jero of accepting gratuities and embezzling state funds totalling Rp 18 billion, not only for his family members, but also for non-budgetary expenses, including payments to Yudhoyono's political advisor Daniel Sparingga and the Indo Pos daily.
The Democratic Party cofounder thanked Vice President Jusuf Kalla and Yudhoyono, the Democratic Party patron, for their defense.
'Thank you Pak SBY and especially Pak JK for agreeing to appear in court. This is something that I have to face [as a state official] and it is also a reminder for all ministers to control their subordinates because their faults will become your responsibility,' Jero said after hearing the verdict, referring to his former bosses by their initials.
Kalla testified last month that there was nothing wrong with ministers using operational funds for non-budgetary expenses, including paying domestic bills.
The distinction between a minister's professional and personal expenses was blurred, he argued.
The panel of judges took his testimony into consideration for Jero's verdict, stating that Jero should not be held fully accountable for the embezzlement, as his main fault was failing to supervise those of his subordinates who had gathered ministerial funds from illicit sources.
Yudhoyono did not appear in person in court, but sent a letter to the judges to the effect that Jero, in his two ministerial posts over the course of 10 years, had contributed much to the country.
Jero is the third minister from the Yudhoyono era to be convicted of corruption.
Former sports minister Andi Mallarangeng, also a member of the Democratic Party, was sentenced to four years for embezzling funds for the construction of a sports center in South Sumatra.
Last year, meanwhile, former religious affairs minister Suryadharma Ali, a United Development Party (PPP) politician, was sentenced to six years for misusing haj funds.
The panel of judges also ordered Jero to pay Rp 150 million in fines. If he fails to pay the fine, he will have to serve another three months behind bars.
He will also have to serve another year if he fails to pay the Rp 5 billion in restitutions.
Jero's bank accounts will now be reopened, having previously been frozen by the KPK.
KPK prosecutor Dody Sukmono lambasted Jero for blaming his subordinates for the offenses.
According to Dody, the convict is guilty not only of the negligence that led to the misuse of the money, but also of directly issuing orders for corrupt practices to be undertaken.
'We will make a decision soon whether to file an appeal against the verdict,' Dody said.
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