Indonesian energy minister quizzed in graft scandal

Indonesian energy minister quizzed in graft scandal

JAKARTA - Indonesia's anti-corruption agency questioned the energy minister as a witness in a bribery scandal Monday, in a case that could further damage the president's ailing party ahead of polls.

Jero Wacik, the minister for energy and mineral resources, was quizzed by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) officials at the agency's office in Jakarta.

The questioning was in relation to a bribery case against Rudi Rubiandini, the former chief of Indonesia's main energy regulator, who was arrested in August for allegedly accepting kickbacks.

"I am here to fulfil the KPK's summons and to provide information about Rudi Rubiandini's case that is being processed by the KPK," Wacik told reporters as he arrived for questioning.

The KPK detained Rubiandini over claims he accepted around US$600,000 and a BMW motorcycle in bribes allegedly from Singapore-based oil trader Kernel Oil.

The agency previously detained the secretary-general of the ministry over the scandal and seized US$200,000 from his office.

Wacik had recommended Rubiandini to become head of SKK Migas, the country's upstream oil and gas regulator.

The regulatory body was also recently removed from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's authority and put under the control of the energy ministry.

Wacik, a senior member of the president's Democratic Party, has denied involvement in the case.

His questioning will be a blow to Yudhoyono, who won a landslide victory in 2009 for a second presidential term on an anti-corruption platform.

The former party chairman, the ex-sports minister and the past treasurer have all been implicated in graft cases in recent times.

The Democratic Party is now facing a heavy defeat in both parliamentary and presidential polls next year, with the corruption scandals widely seen as the main reason, surveys predict.

Rampant corruption touches every level of government and the public service in Indonesia. The constitutional court's chief judge, Akil Mochtar, was arrested in October for allegedly accepting bribes in election dispute cases.

Indonesia is ranked 118th out of 176 countries and territories in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. A number one ranking means the least corrupt.

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