Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Police question actor about treasures

JAKARTA (JP): Tanjung Priok Port (KP3) Police have questioned famous local drama artist Anwar Fuady over the salvage of hundreds of ancient ceramic articles from a Chinese shipwreck found in the Blanakan waters off Subang, West Java.

Anwar is a commissioner at PT Lautan Mas, the private company which, together with France's Comex S.A and the Indonesian Navy, salvaged the hidden treasures.

"The problem arose when fishermen in the KP3 area reported that Anwar had taken their finding," KP3 police chief Lt. Col. Edward Aritonang told The Jakarta Post.

"Anwar told us that even though he knew about the fishermen's finding of a shipwreck, the maritime exploration conducted by PT Lautan Mas was not in that area. We're still investigating."

Police also questioned Andy Asmara, the director of PT Lautan Mas, but no information was given about him by police.

Edward said some time in June last year, two fishermen, Warsa and Taskim, had reportedly found the shipwreck in the waters of Blanakan, a fishing village about seven kilometers from the Ciasem district.

Warsa and Taskim were fishing, but their nets became entangled on the shipwreck. They immediately reported this to their bosses, Triyono and Juli.

"Triyono and Juli ordered their men to salvage some ceramic pieces, which were sold to antique dealers on Jl. Surabaya in Central Jakarta. They found out that the ceramics were very valuable," Edward said.

After learning the value of the items, the Blanakan fishermen collected their life savings and gathered about Rp 200 million (US$26,700) to start an exploration.

Around that time, the fishermen found out that anything found in the waters becomes the property of the state, and to conduct an exploration, they would have to get a permit from the office of the coordinating minister for political affairs and security.

"In Aug. 1999, they went to get the permit ... they were recommended to cooperate with an exploration company. That's how they met up with Anwar," Edward said.

"Anwar allegedly tried to pay them off with a lot of money for that permit. When they refused, Anwar allegedly got his own permit and started his own exploration in the area where the fishermen were conducting their exploration."

Edward said when PT Lautan Mas found the wreck, the villagers tried to negotiate with Anwar to give them a portion of the goods since they were the first ones to find the haul.

"Anwar refused. So Triyono and Julie came to us."

The priceless ceramics consist of hundreds of bowls and plates believed to date back to the later part of the Chinese Sung Dynasty in the 13th century.

All the items recovered from the Blanakan will reportedly be auctioned at Christie's in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (ylt)