Extortion by lawmakers exposed

Haeril Halim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Wed, February 05 2014, 9:13 AM

A witness in the graft trial of former Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Special Task Force (SKKMigas) chairman Rudi Rubiandini has further exposed the endemic corruption involving members of the House of Representatives in the country’s energy sector.

Former SKKMigas deputy for business affairs Gerhard Marteen Rumeser testified at the Jakarta Corruption Court on Tuesday that Rudi once told him that the agency “owed” the House US$1 million and that Rudi had sought his help in obtaining $500,000 to pay the “debt”.

Gerhard said Raden Priyono, who then headed BPMigas, had promised the lawmakers to give them the money. BPMigas was disbanded by the Constitutional Court in November 2012 and later replaced by SKKMigas.

“Pak Rudi asked me to find ways to look for money to pay the ‘debt’ after he had a meeting with a lawmaker who reminded him to pay it. However, Pak Rudi said it did not have to be $1 million, but just $500,000,” Gerhard said.

He added that he did not know who the lawmaker was or whether Rudi was able to collect the money and give it to the House.

He did say, however, that representatives of the House’s budget committee often contacted Rudi and that he was once asked to prepare a “package” for them.

Gerhard’s testimony confirmed allegations that systemic corruption in the energy sector had occurred long before SKKMigas was established to replace BPMigas.

Previously, state-run oil firm PT Pertamina president director Karen Agustiawan claimed she often faced extortion from House members.

In the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) case dossier on Rudi, a copy of which was obtained by The Jakarta Post, Karen said several officials, including Rudi and Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik, asked her for money to pay off lawmakers so they would approve the disbursement of the ministry’s state budget allocation.

Karen claimed that Rudi once phoned her to say Jero and he had agreed that SKKMigas would provide $150,000 to help grease the House’s deliberations on the ministry’s budget, while another $150,000 would be provided by Pertamina, according to the dossier.

The money was referred to by Jero — a senior Democratic Party politician — as “holiday bonuses”. The ruling party declined to comment on the allegations.

Two other PD politicians — Sutan Bhatoegana and Tri Yulianto — have also been implicated in Rudi’s case.

Rudi claimed he was pressed by House Commission VII overseeing natural resources to pay out Idul Fitri holiday bonuses in 2013. Rudi said he had given $200,000 to Tri, reportedly on the instruction of Sutan.

In Tuesday’s trial, Gerhard testified that Sutan — given his position as head of the House Commission VII — had instructed Rudi to favor his company, PT Timas Suplindo, in the tender of an offshore construction project held by SKKMigas.

“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 on the tender], thus, the company that offers the lowest price should be the winner’.”

Gerhard said he named PT Timas the winner of the tender after receiving instruction from Rudi through text message, although he received complaints from Deni Karmaina, a backer of PT Saipem.

Gerhard said that Deni, who is reportedly a close friend of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s youngest son, Edhie Baskoro, submitted documents to him that revealed the ineligibility of PT Timas to bid on the tender.

Sutan refused to comment on Gerhard’s claims, saying he would let the KPK do its job.


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