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

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency has been hit by an online gambling scandal with at least 17 current and former employees implicated, in a sign of the challenges authorities face as they maintain a wide-ranging crackdown.

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

In total, they had placed around Rs 111 million ($6,850) in online bets since 2023, KPK Deputy Chairman Alexander Marwata shared on Tuesday.

He added that while one person bet Rs 74 million in 300 transactions, most others accepted lower bets, between Rs 100,000 and Rs 300,000 per transaction.

Nine of them are no longer working at the anti-corruption agency. They were fired for various reasons, including extortion and charging illegal fees at the KPK detention center, KPK officials said.

The anti-corruption agency is conducting investigations and has pledged to take firm action against those involved.

Mr Alexander said it was premature to comment on possible sanctions against offending staff and stressed the need to await the results of the investigation.

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

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

ICW member Seira Tamara Herlambang stressed that employees of state institutions such as the KPK should set a good example for the public instead of engaging in online gambling.

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The Indonesian government had warned in late June that online gambling is a problem that runs wildly in all sectors of the country’s public service.

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

He believes a dedicated task force, formed in mid-June to stamp out online gambling, has discovered that more state employees are also illegal gamblers.

If found guilty, they should be punished without discrimination, he added. “Anyone, including KPK employees or officials, military or police personnel, will surely face legal proceedings in accordance with the law.”

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

The commission will also hold a working meeting with the KPK to discuss the anti-graft agency’s findings, he added.

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

More than 1,000 people, both nationally and regionally, allegedly did this, with bets totalling around Rs 25 billion in 65,000 transactions, the report said.

According to The Jakarta Globe, PPATK chief Ivan Yustiavandana said his agency had obtained 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 concern about the legislative body’s commitment to addressing the issue.

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According to the online gambling task force, as reported by Jakarta Globe, there are around four million online gamblers across the country. Forty percent of them are between 31 and 50 years old.

In late June, PPATK reported that the total cumulative online gambling transactions in the first quarter of 2024 reached Rp600 trillion, involving approximately three million gamblers. About 2.19 million of them belong to 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 under investigation by the military, according to CNN Indonesia.

Another military officer has allegedly taken 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 alive after discovering he had been playing with her salary bonus.

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