Disgraced Ministry of Health Director Ratna Dewi Umar was sentenced to five years in prison on Monday for inflating the cost of needed medical ventilators at the height of Indonesia’s response to the most deadly outbreak of bird flu in the world.
In 2007, Indonesian health officials were scrambling to control an outbreak of the H5N1 virus that left more than 100 people dead by the end of the year. Mortality rates for those infected with the virus have remained above 78 percent in the years that followed as the nation eventually recorded 159 of the 359 reported human fatalities to date, according to World Health Organization data.
As the nation rushed to head-off a possible nationwide epidemic, Ratna marked up the price of medical ventilators purchased from subcontractor Prasasti Mitra, a company owned by Bambang Rudijanto Tanoesoedibjo, the brother of media mogul and presidential hopeful Hary Tanoesoedibjo. The scheme cost the state some Rp 12 billion ($1.2 million) in losses.
“We declare that the suspect Ratna Dewi Umar has been found convincingly guilty of corruption,” lead judge Nawawi Pomolango said.
The former health director was also ordered to pay Rp 500 million in fines or face an additional three years in prison. She has maintained her innocence through the trial, testifying that former Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari was responsible for the graft.
“I was just following an order from my superior, I did not intend to commit any corruption as accused,” Ratna said. “Siti Fadilah Supari has been untouchable and is so sure she will not be touched,but I am convinced she will not escape her judgment day.”
Siti was originally called in as a witness in Ratna’s case, but was later declared a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for allegedly accepting Rp 1.2 billion in traveler’s checks associated with the graft scandal. In November of last year, the KPK announced it would move to seize the former health minister’s assets.
She has denied the charges.