Jakarta. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Setya Novanto, has denied all allegations that he attempted to shake down Freeport Indonesia in return for helping the mining giant secure a contract extension.
In an official statement made to the House's Ethics Council, which he read out during a closed meeting on Monday, Setya denied that he had asked for a 20 percent stake -- estimated to be worth $4 billion -- in a meeting with the chief executive of the local unit of US mining giant Freeport McMoRan in June.
“I, Setya Novanto, never promised anything to Freeport Indonesia’s chief [Maroef Sjamsoeddin] and I never asked for any shares whatsoever,” he said in the statement, a copy of which was acquired by the Jakarta Globe.
The Golkar Party politician also said that he had never played the role of "broker" and "never abused his power and influence for personal benefit."
Setya has been in the spotlight since Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said filed a complaint with the Ethics Council alleging that the House speaker, who was accompanied during the June meeting by businessman M. Riza Chalid, made attempts to shake down the miner for 20 percent of shares to be divested.
Setya on Nov. 19 told reporters that he had indeed spoken with Freeport executives, but denied the allegations of extortion.
He also verified that businessman Riza, who holds no official government position, was with him at the meeting, which was secretly recorded by Maroef, the country's former top spook.
Freeport operates one of the biggest copper and gold mines in the world and is Indonesia's No. 1 taxpayer.
In the statement on Monday, Setya also accused Sudirman of defamation.
Setya says his personal reputation was damaged by the minister because the latter accused him of having tried to profit from using the names of President Joko Widodo, Vice President Jusuf Kalla and Chief Security Minister Luhut Panjaitan -- who is known to be one of Joko's closest aides -- as part of the alleged shakedown attempt.
The House speaker also allegedly asked for shares in a planned power station near Freeport’s mining site in Papua.
According to Setya, Sudirman's testimony against him is based on nothing but hearsay. He therefore asked the Ethics Council members to disregard the minister's statement entirely.
Setya dodged journalists at the House by entering from a side entrance and journalists were kept out of the tribunal room by security officers who were guarding the venue closely.