Tue, 11 Oct 1994

Sumarlin rebuts Bapindo charges `defamation'

JAKARTA (JP): Former finance minister J.B. Sumarlin calls the allegation that he influenced Bank Pembangunan Indonesia (Bapindo) in its lending policies "vicious defamation" against him and the late Oskar Suryaatmadja, the former director general of monetary affairs.

Sumarlin appeared in court yesterday to testify at the trial of Sjahrizal, a former Bapindo director who is being held responsible, along with three other former directors, for allowing the Rp 1.3 trillion ($620 million) debacle to occur at the state bank.

Sjahrizal has said that Sumarlin and Oskar specifically ordered the bank directors on June 2, 1992, to continue lending to businessman Eddy Tansil, despite the serious risk involved.

The allegation is "vicious defamation and an evil conspiracy concocted by a group of former Bapindo directors in order to protect themselves," Sumarlin told the Central Jakarta District Court yesterday.

Sumarlin, now the chairman of the Supreme Audit Board, pointed out that he was in Jayapura, Irian Jaya, on June 2, 1992, and that Oskar was heading the Indonesian delegation to Washington to negotiate for new financial assistance with the World Bank.

Sjahrizal has suggested that he was summoned on June 2, 1992, by both Sumarlin and Oskar and that both men overruled the decision by the Bapindo board of directors to cut their losses, then still standing at $208 million, in their dealings with Tansil. Both men, who were commissioners of the government-owned bank, ordered that Bapindo lend the full $476 million pledged to Tansil, according to Sjahrizal.

These alleged pressures are the main defense used by Sjahrizal and his colleagues -- Towil Heryoto, Subekti Ismaun and Bambang Kuntjoro -- who are now on trial, all charged under the 1970 anti-corruption law.

Sumarlin supplied the court with documents to show that he left for Jayapura in Irian Jaya on June 2 to take part in an election campaign for Golkar, the ruling political organization, and did not return until June 5.

Two crew members of Pelita Air Service and two journalists who accompanied Sumarlin in the trip have already testified in court to support Sumarlin's claim.

The former minister took particular offense at the attempt by the Bapindo directors to lay the blame not only on him, but also on Oskar, who died in July last year after retiring from public office.

"The late Oskar was in Washington D.C. from May 27 to June 11, 1992 on an official mission," he said.

He pointed out that Towil Heryoto was on that mission, as were a number of other executives from government banks, who all stayed at the Embassy Row Hotel in Washington.

"Towil Heryoto stayed in room 207 and Oskar Suryaatmadja was in room 202. They were practically across from each other," Sumarlin said. "All this time, these former Bapindo directors remained tightlipped about this in order to strengthen their defense and shun their responsibility."

He also produced a letter written by Surinder Malik of the World Bank testifying that Oskar was indeed in the U.S. capital from June 1 to June 10 for negotiations at the bank's headquarters and that Towil was a member of the Indonesian delegation.

Sumarlin stressed that the bank's directors committed a series of errors in their dealings with Tansil and that the decision was theirs alone.

He recalled that he once wrote to ASEI, a state company which insures exports, asking it to re-evaluate the feasibility of insuring a number of petrochemical projects belonging to Tansil.

This letter, he said, was then manipulated by the directors of Bapindo, which was financing the project, and used to pressure the insurance company to issue a policy covering the projects.

Sumarlin also denied ever holding a meeting with Towil to discuss Tansil's loans. (imn)

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