Indonesia sports minister resigns over corruption allegation

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              FIEL - In this Aug. 20, 2017, file photo, Indonesian Youth And Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi attends a press conference with Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in which Jamaluddin apologized to Indonesia for the mistake, which makes the red-and-white Indonesian flag resemble Poland's on a guidebook, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Nahrawi has resigned after being accused of stealing $1.8 million in public money. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan, File)
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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s sports minister resigned Thursday after being accused of stealing 26.5 billion rupiah ($1.8 million) in public money.

Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi said at a news conference in the capital, Jakarta, that President Joko Widodo had accepted his resignation so he can devote himself to his legal defense.

“As a law-abiding citizen, I want to focus on facing that,” Nahrawi said. He urged people to respect the presumption of innocence during the legal process, “Because I’m not like what they are accusing.”

Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission announced earlier that Nahrawi is suspected of using a 26.5 billion rupiah ($1,8 million) grant linked to the National Sports Committee, known by its Indonesian abbreviation as KONI, for his own personal interest.

Commissioner Alexander Marwata told reporters on Wednesday that Nahrawi allegedly received about $1 million in bribes through his personal assistant, Miftahul Ulum, who was also named a suspect, between 2014 and 2018. He said Nahrawi allegedly asked for an additional $830,000 between 2016 and 2018.

Nahrawi is the second sports and youth minister to resign after being accused of corruption by the commission after Andi Mallarangeng, who was minister under former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mallarangeng was sentenced in 2014 to four years in jail and fined $17,000 for accepting $720,000 from a contractor for a $122 million sports complex in the West Java village of Hambalang.

Nahrawi is also the second minister in President Widodo’s Cabinet to be named in a graft case after former social affairs minister Idrus Marham, who received five years in prison for involvement in a bribery case related to a coal-fired power plant project on Sumatra island.

The cases, which underline Indonesia’s challenge in changing its graft-ridden image, have threatened the credibility of Widodo, whose recently won a second term after campaigning for clean governance.

Indonesia ranked number 89 out of 175 countries in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.