Sunday, July 14, 2024

Online gambling scandal hits Indonesia’s anti-graft agency, highlighting country’s betting problem

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JAKARTA: Indonesia’s anti-graft agency has been hit by an online gambling scandal with at least 17 current and former employees implicated, in a sign of the challenges facing authorities as they keep up a sweeping crackdown.

The past and present employees who allegedly placed bets online ranged from drivers to internal affairs staff, said the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Tuesday (Jul 9).

A total of around 111 million rupiah (US$6,850) in online bets had been placed by them since 2023, KPK Deputy Chairman Alexander Marwata shared on Tuesday.

He added that while one person wagered 74 million rupiah across 300 transactions, most of the others settled for lower stakes, between 100,000 rupiah and 300,000 rupiah per transaction.

Nine of them no longer work at the anti-corruption body. They were dismissed for various reasons including extortion and collecting illegal fees at the KPK detention centre, KPK officials said.

The anti-graft agency is carrying out investigations. It has committed to taking firm action against those involved.

Mr Alexander noted that it was premature to comment on potential sanctions against the errant staff, emphasising the need to wait for the investigation results. 

“Maybe it was just for fun because they were idle,” he remarked on Tuesday as quoted by local media Kompas, adding that they were probably involved last year but had stopped playing it this year. 

Non-profit group Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) has called for a thorough investigation and the dismissal of any KPK employee proven to be involved in online gambling. 

ICW member Seira Tamara Herlambang emphasised that employees of state institutions like the KPK should set good examples for the public instead of being implicated in online gambling. 

The Indonesian government had warned in late June that online gambling is a problem that runs rampant across the country’s civil service sectors.

Commenting on the KPK findings, Vice President Ma’ruf Amin said that online gambling laws should be firmly enforced against both the organisers and participants.

He believes a dedicated task force formed in mid-June to stamp out online gambling has uncovered more state employees who are also illicit punters.

If they are found guilty, they should face punishment without discrimination, he added. “Anyone, including KPK employees or officials, military or police personnel, will certainly face legal processes according to the law,”.

Mr Achmad Baidowi, a member of a parliamentary commission overseeing corruption, has told the media that the commission will call on the KPK to provide a full explanation over the alleged involvement of its employees in online gambling. 

The commission will also have a working meeting with KPK to look into the anti-corruption agency’s findings, he added.

A report by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) in early July found that members of parliament were allegedly involved in online gambling.

More than 1,000 individuals at both the national and regional levels allegedly did so, with bets totalling around 25 billion rupiah across 65,000 transactions, the report stated.

According to The Jakarta Globe, PPATK’s head Ivan Yustiavandana mentioned that his agency had secured the details of these transactions, including the full names of those involved. 

However, the House of Representatives’ honorary council has yet to reveal the names, raising public concerns about the legislative body’s commitment to addressing the issue.

There are around four million online gamblers nationwide, according to the online gambling task force as reported by Jakarta Globe. Forty per cent of them are aged between 31 and 50. 

In late June, PPATK reported that the total accumulated transactions for online gambling in the first quarter of 2024 reached 600 trillion rupiah, involving approximately three million players. Around 2.19 million of them come from the low-income group. 

Local media have reported on several cases of government employees including a military officer allegedly misusing funds for online gambling. The officer is currently being investigated by the military, according to CNN Indonesia.  

Another military officer allegedly took his own life due to mounting debt from online gambling.

In early June, an Indonesian policewoman was charged with killing her husband, a fellow police officer, by allegedly handcuffing him and burning him to death after finding out that he had been gambling away his salary bonus.

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