Fri, 08 Dec 2000

Prajogo balks judges on Bob Hasan case

JAKARTA (JP): Prominent businessman Prajogo Pangestu could only respond with a series of "I don't remember" and "I don't know" answers as he frustrated judges trying to extract information from him regarding the multi-million dollar graft trial of Mohamad "Bob" Hasan here on Thursday.

Despite taking several minutes to respond to each question asked, Prajogo failed to sufficiently answer any of the queries posed to him, no matter how simple they seemed.

"I don't know much about the (1989) contract, except that it was about aerial photographing," Prajogo told the Central Jakarta District Court hearing presided over by Judge Subardi.

Prajogo was referring to an allegedly fraudulent project in 1989, which involved the mapping and aerial photography of 88.63 million hectares of forest concessions, belonging to 599 concessionaires.

Prosecutors have charged the defendant, Hasan, for defrauding the Indonesian Forest Concessionaires Association (APHI) of US$168 million via this project.

At the time, Prajogo was an APHI executive board member.

Prosecutors have also charged that the defendant, who chaired APHI from 1989 to 1998, officially granted this project to PT Adikarto Printindo (PT AP) in 1989, before holding a mandatory board meeting of APHI executives to discuss and authorize the matter.

Hasan subsequently bought out the shares of PT AP in full and changed its name to PT Mapindo Parama (PT MP) in 1991.

"I did not know that the contract was signed before the board meeting was held ... I remember that I arrived late to that board meeting," Prajogo said.

Most of Prajogo's responses boarded on the comical. When Judge Poerwanto asked the Barito Pacific Group chairman if he knew why Hasan was sitting in the courtroom, Prajogo said, "I don't know."

A similar response was also given when was asked if he knew Hasan's position in PT MP, and whether, as an APHI executive board member, he knew which account the project funds were transferred to.

Frustrated, Judge Subardi tried resorting to what he believed was basic knowledge for a forest concessionaire, such as how many forest concessions Prajogo held, including the number of hectares. Prajogo replied: "I forget".

He added that he also had no idea if the number of hectares to be photographed was stated in the 1989 contract.

Chief prosecutor Arnold Angkouw asked Prajogo how many companies he currently owned.

Prajogo replied: "I don't remember".

Prosecutors have charged Hasan, together with former APHI deputy chief Tahir and former APHI chief executive Asmaning Tjipto Wignjoprajitno, of transferring $134 million from the APHI account to the account of Hasan's company, PT MP, between 1991 to 1998.

The funds were paid by forest concessionaires for the 1989 project.

When asked if Prajogo knew of the transfer, Prajogo said he had no idea.

"Was tax ever paid to the government from that project money?" Subardi asked, and again Prajogo said that he did not know.

To this, Subardi asserted: "Corrupt businessmen must love doing business with you, since you can easily forget everything." (ylt)