Indonesian minister falls in Hajj fund scandal

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali quits amid investigation into alleged corruption.

By Yenny Herawati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

June 11, 2014
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A scandal over the alleged mismanagement of a trillion rupiah ($85m) Hajj pilgrimage fund has gripped Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry.

  • Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (right) receives Religious Affairs Minister Suryadarma Ali at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java on May 26th. Suryadharma resigned after being implicated in a Hajj graft scandal. [AFP/]

    Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (right) receives Religious Affairs Minister Suryadarma Ali at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java on May 26th. Suryadharma resigned after being implicated in a Hajj graft scandal. [AFP/]

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on June 5th named Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, deputy chairman of the United Development Party (PPP), to head the ministry in place of Suryadharma Ali, who resigned on May 26th amid graft allegations.

Lukman, sworn in Monday (June 9th), will finish the remainder of Suryadharma's term (through October), with the post-presidential election change in government.

Gone missing

Suryadharma's resignation came four days after being named a main suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). Under his watch, the ministry misappropriated Hajj funds and the minister abused his authority, a KPK hearing concluded.

"The alleged corruption in the management of the Hajj pilgrimage by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the 2012-2013 fiscal year is related to lodging, catering, and transportation funding," KPK spokesman Johan Budi told reporters in Jakarta on May 22nd.

The ongoing investigation pointed to Suryadharma as the lone suspect but so far, it was unclear how much money had gone missing from that year's fund, which reached Rp. 1 trillion, Johan said.

According to AFP, KPK reported finding suspicious transactions of around Rp. 235 billion ($19.9m) in the Hajj fund, which combines government money and cash from people planning to make the pilgrimage.

Saudi Arabia has a policy of limiting the number of pilgrims by imposing country quotas. Another allegation against Suryadharma was he helped some 100 people– including relatives and lawmakers– skip the Indonesian queue for the pilgrimage.

Suryadharma maintains his innocence.

"I, as the minister of Religious Affairs, do not know yet what the misuse means. What we are doing now is the reorganisation of the Hajj management funds," Suryadharma told reporters May 6th.

Entrenched corruption?

According to the Financial Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK)– an independent body tasked with fighting money laundering and other financial irregularities – the alleged misappropriation of the Hajj fund is a deeper problem dating back a decade.

A PPATK investigation found that cash from the fund had flowed into the bank accounts of some ministry officials.

Ade Irwan, co-ordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), said his watchdog group had reported suspected graft cases involving Hajj funds to the KPK since 2009, and that corruption within the ministry was rife.

Ade called for these allegations to be fully investigated.

"One of the findings of ICW is that several interest rates at the bank where the Hajj funds are deposited, are below the market rate. I think this is strange. The Ministry of Religious Affairs can obtain a higher interest rate. So, I think the background of the low interest rate should be revealed," he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Reader Comments
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    • nurdiansyah
      June 23, 2014 @ 11:06:53AM
    • People wait a long time to embark on hajj, they want to complete the fifth pillar of Islam. However, why do the people who understand this deviate from religion for money? It would be better to steal a chicken than commit corruption on money intended for people who wish to worship.
    • muh yasir
      June 17, 2014 @ 06:06:59PM
    • Thanks for the information. Wish you good luck.
    • William Boeder
      June 16, 2014 @ 12:06:01AM
    • The KPK Commission continues to deliver its findings in that an enormous number of government officials political party members, high level management individuals and their ilk have been arrested and jailed for their corruption indulgences. KPK Officials have displayed that they are the bastion of legal integrity and the singular agency charged with their agenda to investigate cases of alleged corruption throughout the entire of Indonesia. There is still much to be done, particularly those investigations of persons that have engaged in all things forestry ranging from illegal logging and illegal land acquisitions through to the products delivered to Indonesia's wealthy pulp-mill owners.
    • revans
      June 15, 2014 @ 01:06:21PM
    • Nonsense, an order from whom? Is it to get popularity? This issue should be brought up before the SDA as a controversial step in the matter of the presidential election.
    • charles
      June 14, 2014 @ 08:06:02PM
    • Not just Suryadharma Ali, but also the previous minister and the officials who had a part in managing the funds. Usually when there is corruption in the Ministries you can be sure that it involves the House of Representatives.
    • Didi Sarumpaet
      June 14, 2014 @ 11:06:07AM
    • What matters is the will to repent. That is good in itself.
    • agung
      June 14, 2014 @ 03:06:41AM
    • There are many people in this country who are accusing other people of being thieves but are thieves themselves.
    • thoriq
      June 14, 2014 @ 12:06:24AM
    • Is it because of a person like this that people spend a long time on the hajj waiting list? Thanks.
    • lyzha margo
      June 13, 2014 @ 07:06:49PM
    • I like the news published by Kompas which are to the point, succinct but investigative.
    • rio
      June 12, 2014 @ 11:06:30PM
    • It is becoming harder for Muslims to go on hajj because of the bureaucracy behind embarking on hajj. Particularly, our (Indonesia's) Ministry of Religious Affairs, that issues hajj permits, even commits corruption using the funds belonging to people who want to go on a pilgrimage to the holy land. Do they not fear retribution from Allah SWT? This country's government is really unruly.
    • yosef demon bataona
      June 12, 2014 @ 01:06:20AM
    • No one is perfect. Today it might be us, tomorrow it might be their time. Be strong and put your trust in Allah in getting through this trial. Have the courage to act and have the courage to take responsibility. There is wisdom behind these major incidents.

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