JAKARTA — An Indonesian court has sentenced disgraced former fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo to five years in jail in relation to a controversial policy to resume exports of lobster larvae.
The Jakarta Anti-corruption Court on July 15 ruled Edhy guilty of taking 25.7 billion rupiah ($1.9 million) in bribes to lift an earlier ban on lobster larvae exports. The court also ordered him to pay 400 million rupiah ($27,600) in fines and slapped him with a three-year ban from running for elected office after his release from jail.
Edhy, who had previously said that he would accept a death sentence if found guilty, said he was upset by the court’s ruling, but has not yet indicated whether he will appeal.
Edhy was arrested by agents from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in November 2020, months after announcing the resumption of lobster larvae exports. Conservationists warned the new policy would undo efforts to replenish Indonesia’s wild lobster stocks, while fisheries industry watchers and investigative reporting found the selection of approved exporters was rife with nepotism and cronyism.
Former fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti had imposed the export ban in 2016 to prevent the overfishing of wild lobster stocks in Indonesian waters. Edhy, who has feuded publicly with Susi on several issues since taking office in 2019, first touted the plan to end the ban in December 2019, saying he wanted to cater to small fishers who depended on export markets. He also said Susi’s ban had failed to tackle the illegal lobster market.
Despite the conviction, anti-corruption experts were left disappointed by the relatively short sentence handed to Edhy, given his status as a high-profile active government official at the time he took the bribes.
“The average sentence for corrupt officials is only three years and one month. So what can we expect from our law enforcement that’s now so messed up?” Kurnia Ramadhana, a researcher with the NGO Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), said as quoted by local news.
Edhy’s case is the latest addition to the long list of Indonesian officials hit with corruption. According to the global watchdog Transparency International (TI), worsening graft saw Indonesia drop three points on its Corruption Perceptions Index last year to 102nd place out of 180 countries.
In April, the government decided to reimpose the lobster larvae export ban after the Indonesian Ombudsman found violations surrounding the policy imposed by Edhy, including in the way that approved exporters were selected.
Lobster larvae from Indonesia are typically sold to buyers in Vietnam, Singapore and China, where they can be raised and sold when mature at much higher prices. Edhy’s plan to resume exports called for harvesting up to 140 million lobster larvae per year from the wild, with 70% allocated for domestic cultivation in aquaculture farms and the rest for export.
Lobsters are among Indonesia’s top fisheries commodities, but the illegal export of larvae cost the country 900 billion rupiah ($62.1 million) in lost revenue in 2019 alone, according to the PPATK, the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog.
Conservationists and policymakers consider illegal exports of lobster larvae a major threat to wild populations. The fisheries ministry puts the latest estimate of potential wild lobster stock in Indonesian waters at 27 billion. But the National Commission for Fisheries Resources Research (Komnas Kajiskan) reported in 2016 that lobsters in six out of 11 fisheries management areas in Indonesia were overfished, while the rest were being harvested at maximum capacity.