Thu, 11 Dec 2003

House forms BNI, BRI special committee

Rendi A. Witular and Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Legislators decided on Wednesday to form a special working committee to ensure the seriousness of law enforcers in investigating the high-profile lending fraud at state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) and Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI).

The move came amid fears that law enforcers, such as the police and the prosecutors, might be hesitant to solve the case in view of reports of the possible involvement of well-connected people and key politicians hungry for funds to finance electoral campaigns.

"We need to form the committee to ensure that the police and the prosecutors won't play around with the investigation of the fraud cases," said Faisal Baasyir, the vice chairman of the House of Representatives Commission IX for financial affairs.

The BNI investigation is currently being handled by the National Police, while the BRI case is handled by the Attorney General's Office.

The decision to form the committee was made at the end of a hearing between the Commission and top management of BNI and BRI, and officials from Bank Indonesia.

Faisal, who led the hearing, said the committee would also investigate the fraud cases based on input from various institutions and the public. The result of the investigation would be delivered to the police, the prosecutors, the courts and the public.

In that connection, the committee would have the authority to summon and question any institution and people related with the investigation or the fraud cases, he said.

Meanwhile, National Police director for economic crime Brig. Gen. Samuel Ismoko said the police would question BNI president Saifuddien Hasan on Thursday as a witness.

"We are expecting the presence of the BNI president director on Thursday," he said.

Upon hearing the news that he would be summoned, Saifuddien said that he was not surprised and would cooperate with the police.

"It is part of my efforts to make the investigation easier. But, I haven't received the summons yet," he said.

The police have also revealed that two more businessmen have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the BNI fraud, however, their names were still being kept from the public so as not to hamper efforts to arrest other suspects in the case.

"We can't publish their names because we are after their friends. It will scare them. We are afraid that they will run," said Ismoko.

To date, the police have detained 11 businessmen and three BNI officials in the case.

However, the main suspect, Maria Pauline Lumowa, the owner of Gramarindo Group, is still in Singapore.

"Actually, it is not that difficult for the police to locate and arrest Maria. We have been working with Interpol and have sent a red notice to the Singapore police. It is now up to them to arrest Maria," said Ismoko.

He explained that the police would use a psychological approach to net Maria to persuade her to surrender, including by detaining two of her close family members.

The fraud at BNI centers involved the disbursement of some Rp 1.7 trillion in loans (US$200 million) to a number of bogus exporters. The modus operandi of the Rp 294 billion lending scam at BRI was also similar as the loan recipients used fake collateral.