Wed, 24 Mar 1999

AG's office to question Jeffrey Winters on Friday

JAKARTA (JP): American scholar Jeffrey Winters will be questioned by the Attorney General's Office on Friday over his accusation of corrupt practices in mining giant, PT Freeport Indonesia, an official said on Tuesday.

"Winters was scheduled to be questioned on Wednesday, but his lawyer (Todung Mulya Lubis) said he would only be able to attend on Friday," spokesman for the Attorney General's Office Soehandoyo told The Jakarta Post by phone.

Winters, an associate professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, arrived here on Sunday on a six-day visit to launch the Indonesian translations of his books Power In Motion and The New Order's Political Sins.

Winters traveled to Yogyakarta on Tuesday and will visit the East Java capital of Surabaya on Wednesday.

Winters alleged on Oct. 12, 1998, that Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Ginandjar Kartasasmita, while serving as minister of mines and energy, was involved in dubious dealings in the extension of Freeport's mining contract.

Ginandjar denied the allegations and a week later provided the Attorney General's Office with information to contradict the claim.

Chief executive officer of U.S. Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold. Inc., James Moffett, who was questioned by the Attorney General's Office in November, also denied the assertion.

The allegations concern the sales of some 10 percent of Freeport shares to the Bakrie Group in 1991.

Moffett said the Bakrie Group sale was possible because it was the only party committed to investing in the mine.

"No one else stepped up to buy."

The New Orleans-based Freeport runs one of the world's largest copper and gold mines in remote Irian Jaya and is Indonesia's largest taxpayer.

Winters said he based his allegations on material provided by an Indonesian research group, Econit.

The Attorney General's Office has already questioned Econit's head Rizal Ramli and several current and former Freeport Indonesia executives.

Soehandoyo told Antara the questioning will not only focus on Winters' allegations of Freeport corruption, but will also investigate statements he made concerning the assets of former president Soeharto.

Winters told the media on Monday that within the next two weeks, an international magazine will publish a 15-page investigative report on the foreign assets of the former ruler.

He declined to name the publication.

Winters will be questioned by a special team led by head of the center for intelligence operations Sudibyo Saleh, Soehandoyo said. (byg)