- North Konawe bupati Aswad Sulaeman was named a corruption suspect this week.
- He allegedly took bribes totaling nearly a million dollars from companies he gave mining permits to.
- North Konawe is a district in Southeast Sulawesi province, home to one of the world’s largest nickel deposits. The governor is also being investigated for corruption linked to the issuance of mining licenses.
A district chief from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi was named a corruption suspect this week over “unlawful” nickel mining licenses he issued to eight companies.
Aswad Sulaiman, the former head, or bupati, of North Konawe district, South Sulawesi province, is the second district chief to be named a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in as many weeks, as the Indonesian agency continues its push into the natural resources sector.
Last week, Rita Widyasari, a bupati from the Indonesian part of Borneo, was named a corruption suspect over a license she issued to an oil palm plantation company. Both arrests mark a departure from the KPK’s usual format for catching corrupters, which is by arresting them red-handed in the act of taking a bribe.
Still, the agency accused Aswad of trading the permits for bribes worth 13 billion rupiah ($964,000).
After the 1998 fall of the dictator Suharto, who plundered Indonesia’s resources for three decades, bupatis were given expansive new powers and autonomy over land and resources in their jurisdictions. Many of them have abused those powers to profit personally from the nation’s vast natural wealth.
Corruption in the logging sector cost Indonesia $9 billion in state revenue from unreported timber sales between 2003 and 2014, a government study found.
In Aswad’s case, “The total estimated state losses reach 2.7 trillion rupiah [$200 million] from the sale of nickel produced by miners that earned their permits illegally,” KPK deputy chairman Saut Situmorang told reporters on Tuesday.
Aswad became the district’s caretaker bupati after it formed in 2007, and he was elected to the position in 2011, before losing the race for a second five-year term.
Southeast Sulawesi Governor Nur Alam has also been implicated in a corruption case related to the issuance of mining permits. The province is “one of the few strongholds” of the National Mandate Party (PAN), of which the governor is a member. Aswad was a member of the Democratic Party.
Indonesia is the world’s most abundant source of nickel, and the mother lode of the archipelago’s deposits lies in Southeast Sulawesi. The province has seen its share of environmental destruction as mining and smelting companies operate with little oversight.
Banner image: Aswad Sulaiman, former bupati of North Konawe. Photo by Asdar Yusuf/Flickr.