Saturday, June 9, 2012

Subject of Bank Indonesia bribery case a hero of the people

Eight years after dozens of legislators took bribes to vote for Miranda Goeltom as senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia, the woman at the center of the saga has been jailed, but the big question remains: who benefited from having her in office?

Twenty-eight legislators have been tried and convicted in the case, along with Nunun Nurbaetie, Miranda’s acquaintance and the woman accused of channeling the Rp 20.8 billion ($2.2 million) in bribes.

Miranda, however, has consistently denied knowing about the bribes, a stance stressed by her lawyer, Dodi Abdul Kadir. “Miranda firmly declares that she knows nothing about the distribution of the traveler’s checks,” he said on Monday.

She never made any promises to the members of House of Representatives Commission IX who voted her into office, and she only found out about the bribes later through media reports, Dodi said.

But testimony presented in Nunun’s trial paints a different picture. Witnesses alleged Miranda asked Nunun to set up a meeting for her with Commission IX legislators prior to the vote.

Nunun did as asked, hosting a meeting at her home in South Jakarta. Miranda continued to have meetings with other legislators, witnesses said.

But the question of who was bankrolling the whole venture remains unanswered. Speculation has long been rife that the money came from people within the banking industry who were seeking to influence central bank policy.

Dodi acknowledged that Miranda often met with senior executives from a host of banks during her time in office, but said these meetings were part of the job.

“There was nothing special about those meetings,” he said. “In fact, she hardly remembers what they spoke about because they were informal gatherings.”

The Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center (PPATK), the government’s anti-money laundering agency, previously determined the traveler’s checks were purchased from Bank International Indonesia by First Mujur Plantation and Industry, a palm oil firm owned by tycoon Tommy Winata.

A BII executive testified in one of the earlier trials that First Mujur purchased the checks through Bank Artha Graha, another of Winata’s companies, on the day Miranda was elected in June 2004.

A year later, Bank Indonesia approved a merger between Bank Artha Graha and the publicly held Bank Interpac, which meant Winata’s new company, Bank Artha Graha International, qualified for a listing on the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX).

But Dodi said there was nothing wrong if parties benefitted from policies that Miranda pushed. “What’s wrong with a policy that benefits a single party if it’s based on prevailing regulations?” he said. “There will always be those who are disadvantaged by policies and those who benefit. That’s normal.”

He added that even as senior deputy governor, Miranda still needed the support of other BI officials to change bank policy.

So who really benefited in the end? “Look at the country’s economic performance indicators,” the lawyer said.

“The rupiah strengthened, inflation went down. Who benefitted the most? The Indonesian people, of course.”

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