Thu, 13 Mar 2003

Bapepam: No travel bans in Lippo case

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Amid mounting public pressure to penalize the management of Bank Lippo, the Capital Market Supervisory Agency (Bapepam) said on Wednesday that it had yet to see any urgency in slapping an overseas travel ban on those responsible for allegedly cooking the books.

Bapepam chairman Herwidayatmo said that since the bank's management had been cooperative during the ongoing investigation into the possible scam, he saw no reason to propose the action.

"They are being cooperative. Whenever they are summoned, they always come and help us in the investigation. So what's the use of imposing a travel ban on them?" he said.

Herwidayatmo also suggested that the public be patient with the investigation, which was in progress, saying its outcome would be made public on March 17.

His suggestions reflect how his agency has been under tremendous pressure in dealing with the Lippo case, which has been making press headlines for months.

Since it first emerged late last year, the Lippo saga has drawn plenty of attention from various elements in the community, which have been joining hands in voicing the need to impose stiff sanctions against those responsible for the alleged wrongdoing.

They argued that it was not only important to avoid further losses on the part of the state, but to also make sure that similar frauds would no longer occur as well as to create certainty for investors.

Leading the campaign is an informal group called the Public Coalition Against the Bank Lippo Scam, comprising noted economic experts and anticorruption crusaders.

The coalition -- whose members include Lin Che Wei, Faisal Basri, Drajat Wibowo, Teten Masduki and Bambang Wijoyanto -- has said that its relentless moves were aimed at ensuring that whoever was involved in the Lippo affair receives the proper punishment.

The group's hard work has so far paid off, at least in terms of forcing the related authorities to launch an investigation into the case.

Not only Bapepam, but the Ministry of Finance, Bank Indonesia, the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) and the Attorney General's Office are all conducting probes into the Lippo case.

The coalition was established as a way of lending support to Lin Che Wei, whom one of Lippo's management team, Rudi T. Bachrie, had filed a libel suit against after the former wrote articles in the local media, highlighting maneuvers by the management to destroy the bank's capital assets and shares.

Bank Lippo has become the center of the investigation after months of public outcry over suspected financial frauds conducted by Lippo's management, which is being accused of acting on behalf of the bank's former owners -- the Riady family -- to regain control of the bank at a huge discount and at the expense of the state.

The accusations of manipulation broke late last year, after the bank issued two different financial reports.

In November, the bank reported a net profit and a healthy capital adequacy ratio (CAR) as of September. One month later, it issued a completely different report, stating that the bank posted losses, with its CAR being in the danger zone.