Hartati Lawyer Says Extortion, Not Bribery, at Play in Buol District Head’s Case

By webadmin on 08:36 pm Jul 30, 2012
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Rizky Amelia

[Updated on July 31, 2012]

As business tycoon Siti Hartati Murdaya faced her
second interrogation session with the Corruption Eradication Commission
on Monday, observers say that her case highlights a common practice of
regional leaders extorting businesspeople.

Ade Irawan, a
researcher at Indonesia Corruption Watch, said that it was common for a
district head or governor to ask for money from businesspeople wanting
to invest in the regions.

“Businesspeople don’t have a choice but to give money because they have to protect their business there,” Ade said.

Patra
M. Zein, one of Hartati’s lawyers, said that Amran Batalipu, the head
of Buol district in Central Sulawesi, forced companies operating there
to pay for police protection against locals.

“He used his power
to chase down companies and force them to make contributions,” Patra
said, adding that Hartati’s company, Hardaya Inti Plantations, was no
exception.

“Like it or not, the company had to pay the fee demanded by Amran,” Patra added.

Amran
was arrested by the antigraft body known as the KPK on July 5 after
fleeing a corruption bust on June 26 during which he allegedly took a Rp
2 billion ($212,000) payoff from HIP general manager Yani Anshori and
HIP operational director Gondo Sudjono.

Anshori and Gondo have been arrested and are suspects in the case. Hartati has been banned from leaving the country.

Hanta
Yuda, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute, said that
district heads and governors need money to finance their re-election
campaigns, giving motivation for illicit fund-raising.

“The main sources are businesspeople, aside from the region’s budget,” he said.

Amran, meanwhile, has denied having extorted Hartati’s company.

Ade
and Hanta agree that the KPK, as well as police and prosecutors’
offices, should expand their monitoring efforts to regional heads to
prevent extortion practices that have created a high-cost economy and
scare away investment from regions.

After being questioned for 12 hours on Friday, Hartati again underwent another 12 hours of questioning on Monday.

“I
will give an explanation to the KPK that is as clear as possible,” she
said before Monday’s questioning began, adding that she never gave money
to Amran.

“We need to know if she knew about her employees giving money to Amran,” KPK spokesman Johan Budi said.

But the KPK did not say whether Hartati was a suspect or merely a witness.