Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Pertamina's chief of finance suspended over tanker case

Rendi A. Witular, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

State oil and gas company PT Pertamina's director of finances is facing a temporary suspension starting on Monday because of his alleged involvment in collusion over the sale of the company's two oil tankers.

State Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto said on Sunday Pertamina's board of commissioners had officially issued a temporary suspension notice to Alfred Rohimone.

"The suspension will go into effect as of Monday. He (Alfred) has to be suspended to make it easier for the authority to investigate the corruption. The company is now seeking a replacement for him," Sugiharto said at the State Palace.

He added that the government was still investigating Pertamina officials' involvement in the scandal. Where there was evidence other people were involved, they would be prosecuted, he promised.

The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) on Thursday handed down its verdict that Pertamina and its three business partners were guilty for colluding in the sale of two Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) worth US$184 million last year.

As the market price of each tanker was between $120 million and US$150 million, the sales had caused the state to lose at least $50 million.

The KPPU ordered Pertamina's boards of directors and commissioners to report their wrongdoings to the shareholders meeting and to suspend Alfred.

The KPPU also ordered Pertamina's three partners -- Singapore- based financial advisor Goldman Sachs, Indonesian shipping firm PT Equinox, and the tender winner, Bermuda-based shipping firm Frontline Ltd -- to pay a total of $61.27 billion in fines to the state and Rp 180 billion ($19.4 million) in penalties.

Alfred and the company's former president director Ariffi Nawawi received the nod to execute the sale from former state minister of state enterprises Laksamana Sukardi.

The sale was carried out the middle of last year during the Megawati Soekarnoputri government's term.

Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Purnomo Yusgiantoro said the tanker sale contradicted the ministry's policy of strengthening Pertamina's transportation fleet so it could improve its operational efficiency and delivery time.

"We are repeating our request to Pertamina not to sell more VLCCs," said Purnomo.