Indonesian fisheries minister arrested in baby lobster export probe

Published on
December 2, 2020

Indonesia’s anti-graft agency, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), has arrested the country's fisheries minister, Edhy Prabowo, on allegations of corruption related to his earlier policy to resume baby lobster exports.

Prabowo and other officials were detained at Indonesia’s Soekarno-Hatta airport on 25 November as they were coming back from the United States, Mongabay reported.

“It is true that [the arrest] is connected to the lobster larvae export,” KPK Deputy Commissioner Nurul Ghufron told broadcaster Kompas TV.

Mongabay reported a total of 17 people, including Prabowo, were arrested as part of the bribery investigation, which looked into issuances of export permits of baby lobsters. The minister and six others have been charged with corruption. One of Prabowo’s aides, Andreau Pribadi Misanta, was accused of appointing freight-forwarding company PT Aero Citra Kargo (ACK) as the sole freight forwarder for the country’s baby lobster exports. And ACK has allegedly used its monopoly position to raise freight prices.

ACK was accused of giving IDR 3.4 billion (USD 240,000, EUR 200,000) to Prabowo through an assistant of his wife, which was spent on luxury goods by the minister and his wife during a working visit to Hawaii.

KPK also charged Suharjito, founder and president of PT Dua Putra Perkasa Pratama (DPPP), of bribing other officials to exchange for a permit to export lobster larvae.

One day after the minister was detained, the fisheries ministry 26 November announced a freeze on exports of lobster larvae. And on 27 November, it said Prabowo has stepped down from the position.

Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, who has replaced Prabowo on an interim basis, said 28 November an evaluation of the baby lobster export policy was being conducted.

“If we see everything is good, we’ll continue it because this gives benefits to the fishers along the southern coasts,” Luhut said.

Prabowo in early May implemented a new controversial rule allowing the resumption of lobster seed exports, reversing a 2016 ban imposed by his predecessor, Susi Pudjiastuti. Less than two months after the decision, his ministry awarded exports licenses to 31 companies out of the 100 that were seeking the permits. Earlier this year, an investigation was initiated into possible ties between the country’s fisheries minister and several local exporters of lobster larvae, finding that owners and senior officials of many of those companies are members of the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or the Gerindra – where minister Prabowo is a senior member.

In September, the fisheries ministry revoked 14 export permits of baby lobsters due to exporters’ violations of rules requiring accurate reporting of trade volumes. The gap between the volume of lobster seeds shipped to Vietnam and the exporters’ reports was 1.12 million seeds.

Photo courtesy of Dhodi Syailendra/Shutterstock

Reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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