Indonesian energy minister is suspect in graft cases

Indonesian energy minister is suspect in graft cases
In this file photograph taken on December 2, 2013, Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik speaks to journalists after appearing before the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in Jakarta in relation to corruption case of Rudi Rubiandini, former chief of Indonesia's upstream oil and gas regulator.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) announced on Wednesday that it had declared Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik a suspect in a number of alleged graft cases surrounding his ministry.

"We have raised the legal status of JW from a witness to a suspect," said KPK commissioner Zulkarnaen, referring to the minister by his initials.

The announcement was made amid a plan by the ministry to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Wednesday with gold and copper miner PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara, a local unit of US miner Newmont Mining Corp., after the company and the government reached a deal on Tuesday over a contract renegotiation.

It remains unclear whether Jero will still be allowed to approve such an agreement.

Jero, a senior politician of the ruling Democratic Party, has been in the KPK's sights after the latter allegedly discovered massive corruption at the ministry, which he has led since 2011.

The KPK has launched a fresh investigation into alleged corruption plaguing a number of state projects worth billions of rupiah at Jero's office.

No suspects have been named in the case so far, but the KPK has already questioned Jero and his wife Triesna Wacik, as well as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's political communications advisor, Daniel Sparingga.

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