May 18, 2023
JAKARTA – The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) on Wednesday named Communications and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate a suspect in the alleged botched procurement for a government 4G telephony project.
Johnny is from the NasDem Party, a member of the government coalition whose ministers are already subject to rumors of plans to oust them from the Cabinet in light of the party’s support for opposition figurehead Anies Baswedan’s presidential bid.
Johnny was immediately arrested on Wednesday following a three-hour interrogation by investigators from the office of the assistant attorney general for extraordinary crimes (Jampidsus) in Jakarta.
“We concluded that there is enough evidence that he [Johnny] was involved in the alleged corruption related to the [procurement of] BTS [base transceiver stations] for the 4G infrastructure project,” Jampidsus director of investigation Kuntadi told the press on Wednesday.
The BTS procurement for the 4G telephony project is headed by the Telecommunications and Information Accessibility Agency (BAKTI), an agency under the auspices of Johnny’s ministry. The project began in 2020 after he was installed as minister in October 2019.
By 2023, the ministry was supposed to have erected some 8,000 4G BTS towers in the country’s underdeveloped and outermost regions. But in the first development phase, which had a budget of Rp 10 trillion (US$672 million), the ministry only achieved half of its target of 4,200 BTS towers by 2021. The project’s major delays raised suspicions of graft.
Johnny was the sixth to be named a suspect after the AGO named five others in February.
Johnny’s current status as a suspect has sparked fresh speculations over his fate in government.
Rumors of a Cabinet reshuffle started to emerge after NasDem declared its support for popular opposition figure Anies in October 2022. The decision has complicated the party’s relationship with President Joko “Jokowi” Jokowi and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which has called on the President to remove NasDem ministers from his Cabinet.
Kuntadi stopped short of commenting on reporters’ questions about whether or not there were any kickbacks flowing to Johnny’s NasDem party, but he said his team would dig deeper into the graft case and gather more evidence.
Kuntadi said the AGO investigation team would interrogate Johnny’s brother Gregorius Alex Plate, who allegedly received a Rp 534 million kickback from the project, despite him not being a civil servant. Gregorius voluntarily handed over the money to Jampidsus in mid-March.