Saturday, May 19, 2007

Chopper graft suspect not guilty: Lawyer

Saturday, April 28, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The lawyer for a suspect in the alleged graft case involving the procurement of Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters has maintained that his client did nothing wrong in the US$21.6 million purchase.

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) arrested Monday three suspects in the case and announced that the procurement of four Mi-17 helicopters for the Indonesian Army was fictitious. The AGO also said that a $3.24 million down payment was not accompanied by a bank guarantee.

Those arrested were Andi Kosasih, a representative of Singapore-based Swift Air and Industrial Supply, Tarjani, the former head of the finance department at the Defense Ministry, and Marjono, the former head of the Jakarta VI State Treasury Office.

The AGO has not yet ordered the arrest of Brig. Gen. (ret) Trihandono, a former budget director at the Defense Ministry's Defense System Directorate General, pending permission from the Indonesian Military chief.

Andi's legal representative, Hartono Tanuwidjaja, said his client should not have been named as a suspect in the graft case because the procurement was based on a contract between the Defense Ministry, represented by the Indonesian Army, and a supplier.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Hartono accused the AGO of discriminating against his client by not also arresting Trihandono.

Hartono said Andi had merely satisfied all the requirements stipulated in the Defense Ministry contract and reiterated there was no cause to name him as a suspect.

"The chief of the financial department of the Russian weapons supplier Rosoboronexport, A.V. Kodratiev, had confirmed the payment," he said.

"My client had also fulfilled other (contractual) requirements, such as providing training funds for 28 pilots, technical funds for four Army representatives in Russia for a year and a subsidy for the Finance Ministry's lender, Alternarig Malaysia.

"All of these funds exceeded $3.2 million. Therefore, we should say that it is the Finance Ministry that is indebted, not my client."

He warned that if the Finance Ministry failed to payout the sum owed to the Russian supplier, then the case could be brought before the International Court of Arbitration.

An Mi-17 is a large, twin-turbine transport helicopter with three crew. It has a capacity of 32 passengers, or 4,000 kilograms of cargo, and can also act as a gunship.

Hartono was accompanied by Djoko Subroto, a member of the House of Representatives Commission I for defense and security affairs, who said AGO investigators had closed their eyes to certain facts in the case because it was "fully-loaded" with political interests.

"Since the case emerged in 2004, there was no clear decision from the AGO on whether this case involved corruption, and it is still hanging until now," Djoko said.

He added that previous allegations against Andi were proven to be untrue and that he had met all of his obligations as listed in the procurement contract, an argument not recognized by the AGO.

The case emerged when the House commission launched a probe March 2, 2004, following media reports of alleged irregularities in the purchase of four Russian-made helicopters.

After questioning at least 13 figures, including the Army chief of staff, the secretary general of the Defense Ministry, Rear Marshall Suprihadi, the Finance Ministry's budget director, Achmad Rochjadi, and Andi, the commission urged the Defense Ministry to cancel its contract with Swift Air and demanded the supplier return $3.24 million in downpayments paid by the Finance Ministry.

In January 2005, however, the commission backtracked its own decision and allowed the government to go ahead with the purchase. (02)

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