Cracks are beginning to show in the highest levels of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet amid the unraveling of what could be the single biggest corruption case in Indonesian history.
Luhut Pandjaitan, the chief security minister, said at a press conference in Jakarta on Thursday that he found it “very strange” that the energy minister, Sudirman Said, had filed a complaint with the House of Representatives alleging an attempted shakedown by House Speaker Setya Novanto of copper and gold miner Freeport Indonesia.
Luhut, whose name comes up frequently in the transcript of a recording of the alleged conspiracy, questioned Sudirman’s motive for taking the issue public.
“I feel it’s very strange. Why would Minister S.S. report this? You’d have to ask him yourselves,” he told reporters.
Sudirman alleges that Setya, in a meeting in June with Freeport Indonesia chief executive Maroef Sjamsoeddin and businessman Muhammad Riza Chalid, sought to have a 20 percent stake in the company divested through him, on the pretext that the shares would go to President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.
In exchange, the House speaker gave his reassurances that the company – the single biggest taxpayer in Indonesia – would be allowed to continue operating. The key to making it all work, Setya is recorded as saying “lies with Pak Luhut and with myself.”
Setya initially denied the allegation of a shakedown, but on Thursday finally admitted to it, saying he was joking when he demanded the shares.
Sudirman on Thursday confirmed speculation that the recording was made by Maroef, whom he said had been suspicious about Setya’s requests to talk. The meeting is alleged to have been the third between the parties, and took place at the Ritz-Carlton Pacific Place hotel in South Jakarta.
“Based on the information from the [Freeport Indonesia] CEO, Pak M.S., indications of something fishy were already apparent in the first and second meetings,” Sudirman told Detik on Thursday. “So to protect himself, Pak M.S recorded [the conversation during] the third meeting.”
Freeport Indonesia’s parent company, Arizona-based Freeport McMoRan, holds a 90.64 percent stake in the miner, and is require to gradually bring that figure down to 70 percent by 2019, starting with a 10 percent divestment this year.
Maroef’s predecessor as CEO, Rozik B. Soetjipto, last year estimated the value of a 10 percent stake at around $2 billion. If the shakedown allegation is confirmed, that would make this case by far the single biggest corruption conspiracy in Indonesia’s history.
The vast potential tied up in such a deal was apparently not lost on Riza, the businessman said to have sat in on the meeting with Setya and Maroef.
“Freeport runs, you’re happy, we’re happy,” he is recorded as saying, apparent to Maroef. “We’ll get together and play golf, we’ll buy a nice private jet…” Jakarta Globe