Indonesia's anti-graft agency detains former minister

Indonesia's anti-graft agency detains former minister

JAKARTA - Indonesia's anti-corruption agency arrested a former sports and youth minister Thursday in a multimillion-dollar graft case, one of several to rock the president's party ahead of polls next year.

Andi Mallarangeng stepped down from his post in December after being named a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in the construction of a sports centre.

The KPK accused Mallarangeng of abusing his authority in handling the project, worth more than one trillion rupiah ($88 million), according to the agency.

In a bright orange vest, Mallarangeng spoke to reporters outside the KPK's headquarters after more than six hours of questioning, confirming he had been officially detained.

"I accept this so my case will be settled more quickly. I hope a fair trial will begin immediately so the truth will be revealed, to show who's guilty and who's not" said Mallarangeng, who has maintained his innocence throughout the scandal.

The detainee became the first minister to resign over graft allegations since the KPK began operations in 2003, with a mandate to crack down on graft with an arsenal of investigative powers.

KPK spokesman Johan Budi confirmed Mallarangeng's arrest, adding the case was still under investigation and that the KPK "will question witnesses and the suspect (Mallarangeng)".

The graft case is one of several embarrassments to hit President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party. The nation's leader had vowed a cleanup of government on a passionate anti-corruption platform.

Anas Urbaningrum stepped down as Democratic Party chairman in February after being named a suspect in the same case, causing divisions in the party, with loyalists following his exit.

The party's former treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin was jailed in 2012 for four years and 10 months over a separate sports graft case.

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

The country ranks 118th of 176 in Transparency International's annual index, which rates the least to the most corrupt states.

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