Indonesia jails former top energy regulator for bribery

Rudi Rubiandini (C), head of SKK Migas, Indonesia's energy regulator, accompany by his colleagues, leaves the corruption court in Jakarta on April 29, 2014 after the judge's verdict.

JAKARTA - An Indonesian court jailed the former chief energy regulator for seven years Tuesday for accepting more than US$1.5 million (S$1.88 million) in bribes, in a case that increased concerns about the country's business climate.

Rudi Rubiandini was caught red-handed in August at his Jakarta home with stacks of US and Singapore dollars, after anti-corruption investigators trailed a man delivering money to him.

Judges at the Jakarta anti-corruption court found him guilty of accepting around US$1.4 million and S$200,000 in bribes from several companies, mainly in the energy sector.

"His deeds are not in line with the government's programme to eradicate corruption," said Chief Judge Amin Ismanto.

At the time Rubiandini was head of the main energy regulator, SKK Migas, which deals with exploration and production in the oil and gas sector of resource-rich Indonesia.

Analysts have said that such signs of corruption could put investors off from trying to enter Southeast Asia's energy sector, at a time the country is trying to increase oil output.

The five-judge panel also found Rubiandini guilty of laundering the bribe money by buying a Volvo SUV, a Toyota sedan, a house, and a Rolex watch for his wife.

In addition he was ordered to pay a 200 million rupiah (US$17,000) fine.

Teary-eyed, the 52-year-old said he would not appeal the sentence, which is lighter than the 10-year jail term and 250 million rupiah fine prosecutors had demanded.

Rubiandini is the just the latest high-ranking official to become embroiled in a corruption scandal and the case is another blow to outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who won a landslide re-election in 2009 on a pledge to fight graft.

NGO Transparency International ranked Indonesia 114th out of 177 countries and territories in its annual corruption perceptions index last year. A number one ranking means the least corrupt.