Haeril Halim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Mon, February 10 2014, 9:34 AM
An ongoing investigation by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) into alleged graft committed by top energy policymakers has revealed the infighting among President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s inner circle in relation to purportedly trying to rig the bidding of a lucrative oil project.
A KPK document, obtained by The Jakarta Post on Sunday, revealed that Democratic Party legislator Sutan Bhatoegana was at loggerheads with Yudhoyono’s cousin Sartono Hutomo and a “friend” of Yudhoyono’s youngest son Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro Yudhoyono.
The subject of contention was an alleged attempt to cut corners in the bidding of an offshore construction project, worth more than US$600 million, held by a local unit of US energy giant Chevron.
Sutan, who also chairs the House of Representatives Commission VII overseeing energy and mineral resources, allegedly conspired in July 2013 with graft defendant Rudi Rubiandini, then chairman of Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Special Task Force (SKKMigas), to favor PT Timas Suplindo for the project.
Their plan was opposed by Sartono, then Democratic Party chief treasurer — and friend of Ibas — who backed rival PT Rekayasa Industri (Rekin).
Although the bidding was held by Chevron, the winner had to be approved by Rudi, who later declared Timas the winner.
Sutan, who was questioned as a witness in regard to Rudi, was quoted in the document dated Nov. 27, 2013 as saying that Sartono informed him that Ibas, as the party’s secretary-general, wanted to meet.
As the meeting did not happen, another meeting was arranged for July 23 in the Bimasena building in South Jakarta, and was attended by Sutan, Sartono, Rudi and Deni Karmaina, who was introduced by Sartono as Ibas’ friend.
During the meeting, Sutan was forced to back down from supporting Timas.
“Sartono told me that this was for the [interests of the] party. I replied, ‘Pak Sartono, Pak SBY never taught us to do this [rigging]. You are all greedy’,” Sutan was quoted as saying in the document.
When Sutan left the meeting, he was immediately approached by Deni, who is also a PT Rajawali Swiber Cakrawala executive, in a last-ditch attempt to persuade him to back Rekin.
“Deni ran [over] to me and said ‘Brother, this will be big, this is for you’. I then told him ‘Everyone needs money, but not through this kind of practice’,” said Sutan.
Sartono and Ibas could not be reached for comment, although the Post has repeatedly tried to contact them via mobile phone.
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha and Yudhoyono’s lawyer Palmer Situmorang also refused to comment.
Democratic Party spokesman Ruhut Sitompul said the allegations surrounding Ibas was like an old song being played all over again.
“We’re just laughing to hear that again. The party will no longer respond to it as it is totally untrue,” he said.
When contacted separately by the Post on Sunday, Sutan refused to comment on the case.
However, he said that it was his duty as legislator to ensure procedures at SKKMigas were followed.
“My job is to ensure that the agency will not bow to any pressure [in its policy-making],” said Sutan.
Former SKKMigas deputy for business affairs Gerhard Maarten Rumeser testified at the Jakarta Corruption Court last week that he was instructed by Rudi, after he received input from Sutan, to declare Timas the winner of the bid.
“I received a text message from Pak Rudi that read, ‘From SB [Sutan Bhatoegana]: I heard that the tender is now open. The price that PT Timas offered is lower than [PT] Saipem’s price [another company bidding for the tender]. Thus, the company that offers the lowest price should be the winner’.”
Rudi is standing trial for allegedly accepting bribes totaling $2.6 million from various sources.
Timas denied last week ever making requests to Sutan or other well-connected people in order to win projects.
“Timas Suplindo has never sought any favors to guard its attempts to secure projects,” said the company’s spokesman, Tito Loho.
Although Timas’ consortium accepted the bidding winner notice from Chevron on July 15, it has yet to receive a letter of appointment, according to Tito.