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Indonesia’s religious affairs minister accused of haj fund corruption

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AFP Photo
There’s an “alleged corruption in the haj pilgrimage process” and Suryadharma Ali has been named a suspect. AFP Photo

JAKARTA, May 22, 2014 (AFP) – Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency yesterday named the religious affairs minister a suspect in a graft case involving a fund to help Muslim pilgrims go to the holy city of Mecca.

Suryadharma Ali is just the latest high-level figure from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s outgoing government to be ensnared in a corruption case.

Indonesia, which has the biggest Muslim population in the world, sends a huge number of people on the haj to Saudi Arabia every year and manages a fund for those making the journey. But the Corruption Eradication Commission launched an investigation after suspicious transactions worth 230 billion rupiah ($20 million) were detected in the fund.

Commission spokesman John Budi said there was “alleged corruption in the haj pilgrimage process between 2012 and 2013” and Ali had been named a suspect.

He said the loss to the state was still being calculated but the government had paid out more than 1 trillion rupiah in those years to fund the haj.

Ali is the head of the United Development Party, which is an Islamic party. Other figures close to Yudhoyono, who is standing down later this year after 10 years in power, have been embroiled in graft cases, including the sports minister.

Indonesia is ranked 114th out of 177 countries and territories in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. A number one ranking represents the least corrupt.

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