Indonesia politicians caught up in $170 million graft case

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian politicians with key roles in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's governing coalition have been caught up in a corruption scandal in which officials allegedly pilfered more than $170 million of government money.

The justice minister, a former interior minister, the current speaker of parliament and provincial governors are among those named in an indictment presented to a special corruption court on Thursday at the start of a trial of two Interior Ministry officials.

The case could turn into a test of Jokowi's ability to take a hard line against corruption, which is at epidemic levels in Indonesia and holds back development of the nation of more than 250 million people.

Indonesia's anti-corruption police allege that a network of about 80 conspirators and several companies used the introduction of a $440 million electronic identity card system in 2011 and 2012 to steal more than a third of the funds.

Local media reported that parliament's speaker and the justice minister denied involvement.

Irman and Sugiharto, the two officials currently on trial, are charged with receiving $4.4 million. Prosecutors say the rest of the stolen $172 million was distributed among the dozens of other people involved.

The justice minister and parliament's speaker are from political parties that have thrown their support behind Jokowi's government, which initially did not command a parliamentary majority following the election of the maverick candidate in 2014.

Transparency International in 2016 gave Indonesia a corruption score of 37 on a 1 to 100 scale, where 100 is completely free of corruption. Out of the 176 countries ranked, Indonesia was 90th, far from its goal of reaching 50th place by 2016.

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