CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 July 2019

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Officials caught stealing quake aid money

Jakarta (UCAN): Police in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, have arrested three officials of the local Religious Affairs Ministry for allegedly demanding kickbacks from funds to repair 58 mosques damaged during powerful earthquakes that hit the province in July and August last year.
 
The quakes killed at least 563 people and damaged thousands of buildings, including 630 mosques.
 
The three suspects allegedly demanded 20 per cent of US$426,000 ($3.3 million) set aside to fund the repair of 58 mosques.
 
Police said the three had already pocketed a total of US$7,455 ($58,457) earmarked for the repair of four of the mosques when they were nabbed. According to Mataram Police chief, Saiful Alam, they were caught red-handed. One suspect was apprehended on January 17 while the other two had been arrested earlier that week.
 
“The suspects told the mosque administrators that they would find it difficult to obtain the money if they did not agree to give 20 per cent to them,” he said.
 
Alam said there was also evidence of money transfers between them and that they now they face up to 20 years in prison.
 
Nasarudin, the head of the local Religious Affairs Ministry office, expressed dismay about the arrests saying that if corruption is proven the three woud be fired and stripped of their civil service benefits. 
 
“We will not provide lawyers for them as what they have allegedly done is very embarrassing and has tarnished the reputation of the ministry,” he said.
 
Agus Sunaryanto, deputy coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch, was not surprised by news of the arrests, noting that disaster funds were prone to graft as a result of poor supervision.
 
“During disasters, people mostly focus on the victims or how to rebuild infrastructure as fast as possible and forget about monitoring (the disbursement of disaster funds),” he was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.
 
West Nusa Tenggara police arrested a local councillor in September last year for taking money earmarked to rebuild damaged schools. He was arrested after being caught accepting more than US$2,000 ($15,682) in cash.

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