Tue, 18 Apr 2000

Police turn up nothing in oil smuggling probe

JAKARTA (JP): A preliminary police investigation into the alleged smuggling of tons of oil from the Cilincing coast of North Jakarta has yet to reveal any evidence, an officer said on Monday.

"We have made a thorough investigation following a report from local residents, but we have not yet found any concrete evidence," National Police chief Lt. Gen. Rusdihardjo said.

The alleged crime has been in the headlines of local daily newspapers over the past three days.

Rusdihardjo said state oil and gas company Pertamina should have been aware of any illegal activities.

"The problem is that up until now the police have not received any reports from Pertamina," he explained.

Kompas, which broke the story and ran it with a picture of several fuel trucks, reported that the oil was allegedly sold by local distributors at higher prices to certain parties, who then shipped the oil overseas, possibly to Singapore.

The distributors, who were supposed to sell it to local markets, allegedly bought the oil from Pertamina. The operation, which took place near the Pulau Seribu Police station in the Kalibaru area, had allegedly been going on for at least four years, causing losses to the state of billions of rupiah, it reported.

The site was reportedly deserted the day after the story ran.

Director of supply and domestic trade for Pertamina, Harry Poernomo, told The Jakarta Post from the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar that his company had set up a team to deal with illegal "terminals" located in the Unit III area, which covers West Java and Jakarta.

"We have found 26 illegal terminals in Unit III. None of them belong to Pertamina. Ask the security officers about illegal terminals, including smuggling and mixing the fuel," he said on Monday.

Harry insisted that his company had nothing to do with oil smuggling, including the reports from Cilincing.

"It's impossible for Pertamina to track the flow of oil sold or marketed by companies which bought Pertamina's products," Harry said.

He said Pertamina was "very happy" with the revelation of the smuggling operations.

He said smuggling was a result of the kerosene and gasoline subsidy scheme to be applied by the government to help low income bracket groups.

It was therefore unfair to blame Pertamina in this case, he said.

Harry was in Makassar to follow up on a find made by members of Commission D of the South Sulawesi legislative council of an illegal oil terminal which could accommodate 14 fuel trucks with a total capacity of 90,000 liters of oil.

The terminal, owned by UD Minas Basindo, is not registered to Pertamina, but reportedly supplies between 25,000 and 30,000 liters of kerosene to regencies in South Sulawesi.

Minister of Mines and Energy Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made an impromptu visit on Monday morning to several locations in North Jakarta, including the Marunda and Cilincing ports, where most of the fuel had been reportedly smuggled from.

At Marunda port, Bambang, who was accompanied by several Pertamina executives, did not find the suspected smuggling operation.

At Cilincing, they found four barges loaded with kerosene, including one bearing Pertamina's logo. It was unclear who owned the barges.

Acting spokesman for Pertamina Ridwan Nyak Baik said a crew member from the barge denied the allegation that they were about to smuggle the kerosene out of the country.

Ridwan quoted local residents as saying that the crew of the barges usually worked at night loading the barge, and rested during the day.

Bambang told reporters during the inspection that the government would seriously investigate the alleged trade and arrest any officials or security personnel who were connected with the smugglers.

Separately, North Jakarta Police Col. Wisjnu Ahmad Sastro denied allegations that his personnel were possibly involved in the smuggling, which reportedly operated in front of a police station.

The fuel trucks, he said, passed through a public area.

"The street is a public area and the police can not stop every passing truck to check it just like that," Wisjnu said.

Rusdihardjo promised to take stiff action against any police officers found guilty of taking part in the operation. (ylt/jsk/06/27/sur)