Farouk Arnaz & Nivell Rayda
The National Police plan to summon a number of companies owned by business tycoon and political heavyweight Aburizal Bakrie after former tax official Gayus Tambunan claimed to have received bribes from them, an official said on Thursday.
“It’s what he confessed, and of course we would not only rely on one single confession,” National Police chief of detectives Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi said.
Gayus, who is being investigated for corruption and money-laundering, reportedly told police that several companies linked to Aburizal, the head of the Golkar Party, had bribed him to help them deal with their tax affairs.
“We will seek information from those accused by Gayus,” Ito said, although he declined to identify the Bakrie companies in question. He also declined to provide details on when police planned to question the Bakrie company representatives.
According to documents obtained by the Jakarta Globe, Gayus had been responsible for the tax cases of 40 companies, including three major mining firms that were part of the Bakrie empire.
Ito said he had already filed a request with the new minister of finance, Agus Martowardojo, to seize tax documents related to the case.
The announcement is the latest twist in the tax-evasion saga that Bakrie firms have been entangled with.
Last month, the Supreme Court upheld a December 2009 ruling by the Tax Tribunal, which found that the tax office did not have sufficient evidence to upgrade its probe of PT Kaltim Prima Coal, a subsidiary of the Bakrie Group’s PT Bumi Resources, to a full investigation.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled that the office could still continue its probe into the company, which is alleged to have evaded Rp 1.5 trillion ($163.5 million) in taxes.
Bakrie family spokesman Lalu Mara Satriawangsa could not be immediately reached for comment but was quoted by online news portal Detik.com rejecting Gayus’s allegations, saying that Bumi Resources and its subsidiaries, including KPC, were all public companies and used public tax consultants.
As such, the companies did not deal with Gayus, he said. He also pointed out that as of 2004, Aburizal was no longer handling Bakrie businesses.
Teten Masduki, secretary general of Transparency International Indonesia, said the pressure was now on the tax office to start fresh investigations into the Bakrie tax allegations.
“The taxation office should evaluate the handling of these cases and open a new investigation,” he told the Globe. “If the case has been stopped because of the Tax Tribunal’s ruling, then the government can challenge its decision in light of new evidence from Gayus’s testimony.”
Indonesia Corruption Watch said the government’s priority should be the investigation into the alleged tax evasion by KPC.
“The government should expedite the investigation into KPC because there are still opportunities to prosecute the case,” said Emerson Yuntho, ICW’s deputy chairman.
He added that there should also be a probe into the circumstances surrounding the Tax Tribunal’s decision to halt the investigation.
By law, the tribunal only has the authority to hear cases at prosecution, Emerson said. “The tribunal had exceeded its authority by interfering with the investigation process,” he claimed.