Wed, 05 Apr 2000

'Ad hoc' judges sought to try bankruptcy cases

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) has filed bankruptcy petitions against four "uncooperative" debtors at the commercial court, the head of the agency's legal department Agustus Sani Nugroho, said here on Monday.

Agustus said that the agency, which has suffered serious blows in its previous efforts to liquidate recalcitrant debtors through bankruptcy proceedings, had also asked for independent "ad hoc" judges to examine the four bankruptcy cases.

But Agustus denied suggestions that the demand for ad hoc judges was based on distrust against regular local judges.

"We still have faith in the (regular) judges. But we want to make use of the existing (ad hoc judges) institution because the cases brought up by IBRA are specific and complicated," he told a press conference.

Ad hoc judges are experts recruited by the government from outside the court.

The Jakarta Commercial Court rejected last month demands from IBRA to declare trading group PT Tirtamas Comexindo bankrupt, granting instead the company six months to settle its debts.

Tirtamas is owned by prominent businessman Hashim Djojohadikusumo, the son-in-law of former president Soeharto.

The commercial court judges also rejected two bankruptcy proceedings filed by two different groups of Tirtamas creditors.

The decisions of the commercial court have also disappointed the International Monetary Fund.

The Fund decided last week to postpone the disbursement of some US$400 million in loans to the country until the government makes significant progress with its economic reform measures, including its corporate restructuring program.

Agustus said that the four recalcitrant debtors to be brought to the commercial court included trading firms A Latief Corporation which owed the agency some $16.93 million in bad debts, PT Samurindo Swadaya Sejahtera (Rp 4.52 billion and $5.03 million), crude palm oil processor PT Sumi Asih (Rp 73.94 billion and $6.73 million), and diversified group PT Ometraco Corporation ($53.18 million).

The companies initially owed debts to banks closed down or nationalized by the agency, which then acquired the loans.

Agustus said that the agency would also exercise its legal power to seize the assets property firm PT Mas Murni Indonesia which owed the agency some Rp 294.04 billion and $33.82 million in debts.

Asked on the development with Tirtamas, another IBRA legal officer Robertus Bilitae said that the company would propose a composition plan to settle its obligations.

But he said that by law the court would have to rule Tirtamas bankrupt.

"The initial composition plan has been rejected by (Tirtamas) creditors," Robertus said. (rei)