Sri Mulyani Questioned Over 2009 Oil Graft Case


JUNE 08, 2015

Jakarta. The National Police on Monday questioned World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati over a graft case that resulted from a deal made by the nation's upstream oil and gas regulator. In 2009, Sri Mulyani authorized the deal while serving as Indonesia's finance minister.

"She is a witness now as she is still undergoing questioning. If we need her to testify more, we will summon her again, but for now she's due to return to the United States tomorrow," Brig. Gen. Viktor Simandjuntak, director for special crimes at the National Police's Criminal Investigation Unit (Bareskrim), said in Jakarta on Monday evening.

Sri Mulyani was questioned at her old office at the Ministry of Finance in Central Jakarta.

"Although witnesses are supposed to undergo questioning at Bareskrim, some relevant data are at the ministry so she will be questioned there," Viktor said prior to the interrogation.

The case began when the regulating agency BPMigas — currently known as SKKMigas — appointed privately owned Trans-Pacific Petrochemical Indotama (TPPI) to sell its condensate. Direct appointment was against the regulations, but Sri Mulyani signed a document detailing the payment method to TPPI in 2009. The deal was later found to be problematic.

Instead of selling the condensate to state-owned energy firm Pertamina, as then-vice president Jusuf Kalla (who serves in the same post now) instructed, TPPI made another deal with another company. The troubled sales process, according to police investigations, are believed to have caused state losses of Rp 2 trillion ($148 million).

Investigators so far have named three suspects in the resulting embezzlement and money laundering case, including former BPMigas chief Raden Priyono, his former deputy for finance Djoko Harsono and TPPI's former owner Honggo Wendratmo.

Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent lawyer, says he believes Sri Mulyani cannot be held accountable for the graft-ridden deal.

"Sri's position as a minister at that time may be the reason why the police summoned her. But she cannot be named a suspect for doing her job. Signing documents is merely part of a minister's job," Todung said. "Policy issuance cannot be disputed unless she signed the document on the payment system for her own interest," he added.

Ichsanuddin Noorsy, an expert on political economy, seconded Todung's opinion.

“In my view, Sri Mulyani didn't really know about this. She only agreed on the payment method for TPPI,” Ichsanuddin said, adding the possibility was very small that Sri Mulyani would be named a suspect in the case — as opposed to a witness.

“This was not her responsibility, it was BPMigas'. How could it give the condensate without any seller appointment agreement or a deal? Instead, the agreement was only made later and without a payment guarantee.”

Transparency International Indonesia secretary general Yenny Sucipto, however, says Sri Mulyani is responsible for approving the contract.

"That is an indication that she is clearly involved in the case. She's the one who approved the payment," Yenny said on Monday. "Without her approval, the condensate sale would have never taken place to begin with. It is Sri's responsibility to explain to the public why she approved the payment method at that time," the activist added.

Sri Mulyani's alleged role in the case came to light after the current chief of SKKMigas, Amien Sunaryadi, also a former commissioner with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), said last month that there was a letter from the Ministry of Finance at that time that directly instructed SKKMigas to sell its condensates to TPPI.

Police said this was in spite of the fact that TPPI had been known to be an ailing company. Later on, it was unable to pay SKKMigas the amount it was supposed to have obtained from the condensate sales. A 2012 report by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) also reportedly said that the finance minister at that time was involved in the direct appointment of TPPI.

Mulyani’s questioning took place less than a week after former state enterprises minister Dahlan Iskan, another cabinet member under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was named a suspect by the Jakarta Prosecutors’ Office over the graft-ridden construction of power transformers for state utility firm PLN, which he had led before his appointment as minister.

The move fed speculation that law enforcement institutions are currently targeting former officials from the time of Yudhoyono’s presidency.

Further coverage: Editorial