Indonesian ex-minister jailed for 12 years in virus graft case

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Jakarta

Indonesia’s ex-social affairs minister was jailed for 12 years on Monday after being convicted of taking $1.2 million in bribes linked to food aid for poor families hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

A Jakarta court handed out the stiff sentence to Juliari Batubara following his December arrest and a sting operation that turned up suitcases, backpacks and envelopes stuffed with cash.

“The court sentences the defendant to 12 years in prison and orders him to pay 500 million rupiah ($35,000) in fines or serve six more months in prison,” presiding judge Muhammad Damis told the hearing, which was held virtually for virus safety reasons.

The former politician was also ordered to pay the equivalent of about $1 million in restitution, or face an additional two years in prison, the court said.

Batubara would take cash from two contractors hired to supply basic food packages for Indonesians hit hard by the health crisis, the court heard earlier.

President Joko Widodo vowed not to protect corrupt officials in the wake of Batubara’s arrest and described the stolen funds as “the people’s money”.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday fully approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, a move expected to trigger a new wave of vaccine mandates as the Delta variant batters the country.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the Covid-19 pandemic,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

“While millions of people have already safely received Covid-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated.”

The Covid vaccine, which may now be marketed under its brand name Comirnaty, is the first to receive full approval.

Tens of millions of shots have already been administered under an emergency use authorization (EUA) that was granted on December 11, 2020.

The decision to award it approval was based on updated data from the drug’s clinical trial, including a longer duration of follow-up, with safety and effectiveness evaluated among more than 40,000 people.

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