Indonesia ex-minister faces graft charges

JAKARTA - Indonesian court charged Monday a former sports and youth minister in a multimillion-dollar graft case, one of several which hit the president's party ahead of upcoming elections next month.

Andi Mallarangeng, 50 was charged with abusing power to enrich himself and others in the construction of a sports centre in West Java province, worth around 2.5 trillion rupiah (S$279 million), one of prosecutors Supardi told the anti-graft court in Jakarta capital.

The defendant allegedly received more than $852,000 via his brother Andi Zulkarnaen in kickbacks to favour one bidder, and enriched others and several companies in the project which has caused a state loss of more than $40 million, Supardi said.

"The defendant abused his authority and facility as a sports and youth minister," Supardi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name said.

Mallarangeng stepped down from his post late 2012 after being named a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). He 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.

"I am convinced that I did not do any violation of law," Mallarangeng told reporters outside the courtroom.

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 early this year after being named a suspect in the same case, causing divisions in the party.

Indonesia is ranked 114th out of 177 countries and territories in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. A number one ranking means the least corrupt.