Updated: 05/23/2014 04:52 | By Agence France-Presse

Indonesia religion minister suspect in pilgrimage graft case

Indonesia's anti-corruption agency on Thursday named the religious affairs minister a suspect in a graft case involving a fund to help Muslim pilgrims go to the holy city of Mecca.


Indonesia religion minister suspect in pilgrimage graft case

Suryadharma Ali, Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister and the head of the United Development Party, attends a ceremony in Jakarta on May 20, 2014 - by Adek Berry

Suryadharma Ali is just the latest high-level figure from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's outgoing government to be ensnared in a corruption case. 

Indonesia, which has the biggest Muslim population in the world, sends a huge number of people on the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Saudi Arabia every year and manages a fund for those making the journey.

But the Corruption Eradication Commission launched an investigation after suspicious transactions worth 230 billion rupiah ($20 million) were detected in the fund.

Commission spokesman John Budi said there was "alleged corruption in the hajj pilgrimage process between 2012 and 2013" and Ali had been named a suspect. 

He said the loss to the state was still being calculated but the government had paid out more than one trillion rupiah in those years to fund the hajj.

Ali is the head of the United Development Party, which is an Islamic party. Other figures close to Yudhoyono -- who is standing down later this year after 10 years in power -- have been embroiled in graft cases, including the sports minister.

Indonesia is ranked 114th out of 177 countries and territories in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. A number one ranking represents the least corrupt.

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