North Sumatra mining chief caught taking bribe in Indonesia

The top mining official in North Sumatra has been arrested for corruption. Police in the province caught Eddy Saputra Salim red-handed taking a bribe.

It was just the latest indication of foul play in the Southeast Asian country’s graft-ridden natural resources sector, where much of the authority over mining permits has in recent years been transferred from the district to the provincial level in a bid to increase oversight of the licensing process.

Salim heads the North Sumatra Mining and Energy Office. Earlier on the day of his capture — April 6 — he had accompanied Governor Tengku Erry Nuradi to a seminar on corruption prevention staged by the nation’s antigraft agency, known by its Indonesian acronym KPK.

The bust came less than two weeks after thousands of Indonesians marched in Jakarta to call for investigations into cases of alleged corruption in the coal and mineral industries.

The two men who bribed Salim are Suherwin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, and Dora Simanjuntak. They paid him to process documents related to a mining company.

The police confiscated a black bag with four envelopes inside it, each containing millions of rupiah, for a total of 39.9 million rupiah (roughly $3,000). They seized a variety of evidence from Salim’s office, the scene of the crime, including an appointment book, surveillance footage, a laptop, three mobile phones and external footage.

Salim was named a suspect and his case was immediately transferred to the North Sumatra Prosecutor’s Office.

Salim has held the position since 2014, according to local media. He was appointed by Gatot Pujo Nugroho, the previous governor, and reconfirmed by Governor Nuradi in January. Prior to that Salim was head of the province’s Spatial Planning and Housing Office.

The KPK has instigated a massive effort to review thousands of licenses held by mining companies across the country. The program is known locally as Korsup Minerba. Since last year, the palm oil sector has been subject to a similar initiative, known as Korsup Sawit.

This story was reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and was first published on its Indonesian site on April 13, 2017, and is republished with permission.