Updated at 9:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. First published on Jan. 27.
A lawyer for Karen Agustiawan, who is president director of Pertamina, said on Monday that several lawmakers threatened to undermine her position if the state energy company did not pay them undisclosed sums of money.
“She has often received threats that she will be fired,” Rudi Alfonso said. “But she never responded to such requests.”
The claim is the latest indication that state-owned enterprises have been targets of extortion by political parties and politicians to serve their personal interests.
Rudi was speaking at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) headquarters in South Jakarta as Karen was being questioned as a witness in a bribery case implicating Waryono Karno, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM), and Rudi Rubiandini, the former chief of Indonesia’s upstream oil-and-gas regulator, SKKMigas.
Rudi was responding to accusations that Karen had been channeling gratuities to members of the House of Representatives Commission VII, which oversees energy, the environment and research and technology.
The trial of Kernel Oil executive Simon Gunawan Tanjaya, who was sentenced to three years in prison last month over the bribery case, brought to light accusations that lawmakers made frequent requests for payment to Pertamina.
Rubiandini alleged that Karen often gave money to lawmakers and that she refused to respond to requests from the Energy Ministry because she had already paid lawmakers. Rubiandini, through his lawyer Rusdi A Bakar, said this was because Karen did not want to pay.
“Because [Pertamina] had already paid members of Commission VII, she refused to pay when the ESDM made a request, because that would mean she would be paying twice,” Rusdi said after visiting his client at the KPK detention facility in Jakarta on Monday.
He said he believed KPK investigators would be able to confirm the matter with Karen during Monday’s questioning.
“[She] will certainly be asked about that. Karen has given lots of money to Commission VII of the House of Representatives,” Rusdi said.
But he did not cite any examples of such payments.
“Why not ask her about it,” Rusdi said.
State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan also denied that Karen gave money to the lawmakers who wanted Idul Fitri bonuses, or THR.
Dahlan confirmed that Rubiandini had asked Karen to chip in for the lawmakers’ THR but she rejected it.
“Because Rudi asked [her] to chip in. When I was the president director of PLN [state electricity company], I was also asked to chip in. But I rejected it. Karen also rejected it,” Dahlan said last week.
Dahlan claimed that when he became a minister he immediately instructed all state enterprise directors to not respond to such requests.
“It would create trouble if such requests are fulfilled. So, Rudi did indeed ask, but Karen didn’t fulfil it,” Dahlan defended.
Rubiandini asked Pertamina to provide money for the ESDM so that the ministry could hold a meeting with Commission VII but the state-run energy company couldn’t fulfil the request.
An investigation document showed that Rubiandini had mentioned the money to KPK investigators.
“Pertamina [Karen] could not fulfil the request from the ESDM ministry for the coordination meeting between ESDM and House Commission VII related to the revised state budget 2013,” Rubiandini told investigators.
He didn’t explain why Pertamina wasn’t able to fulfil the ESDM’s request.
He only said that he later decided to use the $30 thousand that he received from SKKMigas deputy chairman Gerhard Rumeser and another $20 thousand he received from Deviardi, his personal golf trainer, for the lawmakers.
Rubiandini later submitted the $50 thousand to his secretary Tri Kusuma Lydia, who delivered it to the ESDM. But he claimed that he didn’t know which ESDM official received the money.
KPK deputy chairman Zulkarnain said the antigraft body was focusing its investigation on the corruption case, which allegedly involved Waryono, including the alleged payment to members of House Commission VII.
“We are focusing on W.K.’s [Waryono Karyo] case but we need to understand the case as a whole,” Zulkarnain said.
The KPK recently announced that it had named the secretary-general of the Energy Ministry as a suspect in a bribery case that has implicated the former head of Indonesia’s upstream oil and gas regulator.
Waryono Karno has been a suspect since Jan. 9, but the KPK only announced it on Jan. 16.
“From the result of the [case] development, the KPK has decided to name W.K., the secretary-general of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, as a suspect,” KPK spokesman Johan Budi said in Jakarta.
He said Waryono was charged with graft and/or bribery, and that the KPK found in his office $200,000 in cash.
The serial numbers of the dollar bills, Johan said, are similar with those allegedly received by Rudi from company Kernel Oil as a bribe.
Zulkarnain said the investigation of the alleged extortion by lawmakers can be held simultaneously with the investigation of Waryono’s case.
Zulkarnain said the alleged extortion by lawmakers would not be surprising for the public because it was a common practice.
But he said he could not provide all the investigation information to the public.
The KPK last week searched the offices of three lawmakers, namely Sutan Bhatoegana and Tri Julianto of the Democratic Party, and Zainuddin Amali of the Golkar Party.
Rudi mentioned during KPK inquiries that Sutan once asked him to pay holiday allowances to members of the House Commission VII.
There’s suspicion that the money Rudi collected was meant to be channeled to the Democratic Party to fund its upcoming congress to select a candidate for this year’s presidential election.
Speculation has also arisen that Deviardi is a member of the Democratic Party with close ties to Achsanul Kosasih, a member of the party’s central leadership board, and that he was picked as a go-between in the bribery transaction precisely because of his party affiliation.
Energy Minister Jero Wacik and the Democratic Party have denied any connections between the party and the scandal, and also denied that Deviardi was a member of the party.
Achsanul claimed that any attempt to link the SKKMigas case to the party was a malicious bid to tarnish its image.