Minister denies part in Freeport scandal

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan yesterday came out strongly to deny any involvement in the Freeport scandal.

The debacle centres on the country's House Speaker Setya Novanto, who is accused of trying to secure kickbacks from United States copper and gold miner Freeport-McMoRan during a meeting with businessman Muhammad Reza Chalid and Freeport Indonesian unit chief Maroef Sjamsuddin.

It was during the June 8 meeting, held to discuss Freeport's bid to extend its contract earlier than is allowed by Indonesia's law, that the names of President Joko Widodo, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and Mr Luhut were mentioned.

The meeting was discreetly recorded by Mr Maroef and a transcript of it was presented at a public hearing this week to determine if Mr Setya had breached ethics rules. The transcript has also revealed that Mr Reza and the Speaker had implied that Mr Luhut could help convince the President to agree on an extension for Freeport to continue its operations in Indonesia. This, in exchange for a 20 per cent stake in Freeport's local unit for Mr Joko and Mr Kalla.

Mr Luhut said he wrote to Mr Joko on May 15 explaining that an extension of the contract could only be done two years before expiry at the soonest. He filed the memo again on June 17, stressing that the contract can only be extended in 2019, due to existing laws.

"How could they say I was involved when early on, my position was no extension? Frankly, I didn't care about this initially, until it really got to my family," he said.

"I want anyone who is saying I am involved to come forward and show me what I did wrong... This is about my family's dignity. We will defend our dignity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Minister denies part in Freeport scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe