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Former Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for embezzling funds from the government’s COVID-19 relief program. As harsh as it may sound, the punishment is infinitely more forgiving than the death penalty many Indonesians had hoped for the politician.

The Corruption Court in Central Jakarta handed the sentence to Juliari today, which is one year longer than prosecutors from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had demanded. 

During the hearing, the court said one of the extenuating factors it took in its consideration for Juliari’s sentence was that the politician had already been battered in the court of public opinion.

“The convict had suffered enough from being ridiculed, mocked, and insulted by the public,” Judge Yusuf Pranowo said.

Conversely, what worked against Juliari’s favor was that he did not own up to his crime during the course of the investigation and trial, the court said.

KPK arrested Juliari on suspicion of graft in December 2020. The former cabinet minister was accused of skimming IDR10,000 (US$0.69) from each COVID-19 aid package, containing basic foods, distributed by 109 contractors in the Greater Jakarta Area from May to December 2020.

Juliari personally received IDR32.48 billion (US$2.25 million) in the scheme and had spent some IDR15 billion (US$1.05 million) of the money. He has been ordered by the court to return IDR14.5 billion (US$1 million) to the state within a month in lieu of an additional two months in prison.

Juliari is the fourth and latest cabinet minister under President Joko Widodo to be arrested for graft. Juliari’s case particularly ticked off anti-corruption activists and the public in general for the heinous manner in which he stole at a time when the country was suffering from the pandemic, prompting calls to enact a law punishing those who steal from disaster aid with the death penalty. 

Related — Ministry officials rewarded themselves with karaoke for a hard day’s work, court hears in COVID-19 aid bribery case

This article, 12 years for former Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara in COVID-19 aid embezzlement case, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.

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