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Indonesian Energy Minister Named in Corruption Probe

FILE - Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. CEO Richard Adkerson (R) confers with Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 22, 2013.

Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission has named the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Jero Wacik as a suspect in a major corruption case.

Commission officials said Wednesday that Wacik is accused of extortion related to his official duties between 2011 and 2013. If proven guilty, he faces imprisonment for a maximum of 20 years and a fine of up to nearly $100,000.

Commission Vice Chairman Bambang Widjoyanto told VOA's Indonesian service the case involves hundreds of thousands of dollars in graft.

“There has been action by some officers in the Ministry to receive more funds than what has been budgeted. For example kickbacks from consultant services or partner companies in certain programs, even by holding fictional meetings," said Widjoyanto. "Based on our investigation, the funds generated can be qualified as abuse of authority, currently estimated at about [$850,000]."

Wacik said he will remain in the country while the legal process takes place, but he cannot yet address his future as energy minister.

“Regarding the post of minister, I already signed the integrity pact," said Wacik. "Because the president is currently on his state visit in Singapore, I will report to him as soon as he is back so that the ministerial functions can proceed.”

The accusations against Wacik stem from a case in 2013 when an energy ministry official was caught receiving money from a representative of a Singapore-based oil firm.

Wacik is a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party -- the ruling party of the outgoing government.

Incoming President Joko Widodo has vowed to tackle official corruption when he takes office. The issue has long been considered a major problem in Indonesia.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.