Money from Murdaya's company to the Buol regent was allegedly a payoff for taking care of a plantation license. Records proving the two communicated on this, place businesswoman Murdaya in an untenable position.
Because of a meeting with Buol Regent Amran Batalipu, in early January, Saiful Mujani has had to deal with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). On Tuesday last week, Saiful, who founded the political consultancy Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting was questioned by investigators for seven hours. "With a break for eating and praying," he added.
As Saiful recalled, a telephone call from Totok Lestiyo, the right-hand man of businesswoman Hartati Murdaya, was how he first met Regent Amran. This founder of Lembaga Survei Indonesia was asked to meet the Buol regent at Murdaya's office, located in the area of the Jakarta Fairgrounds in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta. He said Totok was a long-time friend.
At Murdaya's office, Saiful only met with Totok. Amran, who had been in Jakarta for several days, was late because he had to attend a meeting of Indonesia's regional chief executives. He showed up after some time, saying the meeting would also be attended by Hartati Murdaya, the big boss.
According to Saiful, Totok conveyed Amran's request to conduct a survey in the run-up to the election of the regent of Buol, an administrative region in Central Sulawesi, established in 1999. As the incumbent, Amran wanted to measure his level of electability. As chair of the Golkar Party in Buol, Amran said he could afford the survey cost of Rp300 million, including a 10 percent tax.
Saiful did not say if Murdaya spoke at this meeting. However, according to Amat Y. Entedaim, Amran's lawyer, his client negotiated the donations the regent expected from her. Amran asked for Rp3 billion. In response, the host replied she was only able to give a third of that amount.
Two months passed, and Saiful again met with Totok and Amran, this time at the cafe in Hotel Mercure in Ancol. Saiful took an hour to explain the results of the survey conducted by his team. He said Amran's level of electability was only 48 percent. Amran then asked Saiful to become his personal consultant. Thinking this was just a spontaneous comment, Saiful did not respond.
But later on Totok called Saiful and asked him to carry out a second survey. He also asked Saiful to become Amran's personal consultant. Because he had to travel to the United States, Saiful asked two of his staff members to go to Buol. They agreed on the price of Rp300 million for survey costs and a separate rate for the political consultancy services. Instead of paying for this out of the regent's personal bank account, the payment for two surveys and one consultancy were paid out of the bank account of Hardaya Inti Plantations, a company owned by Murdaya, which operates an oil palm plantation in Buol.
Saiful said that after reporting the results of the second survey, Amran became very angry with the research staff. He refused to accept the result that showed his electability had dropped from 48 to 47 percent. Meanwhile, his main competitor's electability had risen from 20 to 40 percent.
A few weeks before the election, Saiful tried to contact Amran via telephone in order to explain the survey results. Amran again became angry and said that Saiful had failed to improve his image. "I was offended because he accused me of being exploited by the opposing side," he said. Since then, he has not communicated with the regent.
That meeting became a problem after the KPK arrested Amran Batalipu, two weeks ago. He was accused of receiving bribes from Yani Ansori and Gondo Sudjono, two top company officials at Hardaya Inti Plantations. Murdaya, who is suspected of involvement in this case, has been banned from leaving the country. "Investigators asked if I knew Amran, Yani, and Gondo," said Saiful. "I said I only knew Amran."
Behind the scenes, the lobbying grew to become more than just political issues. It turned out that Murdaya's office had indeed dealt with Amran regarding the license of the plantation land owned by Hardaya Inti Plantations.
Of the 26,000 hectares of the plantation land, Hardaya only had a license to operate on 21,500 hectares. The rest of the land was still under review, pending a recommendation from the Buol regent. The land which had not yet received official authorization was a legal problem because it had already been converted into an oil palm plantation. To be on the safe side, according to some sources, the company needed to 'secure' the cooperation of the law enforcement people.
The KPK obtained information on an outlay for 'security funds.' They conducted surveillance of top Hardaya Inti Plantations officials who were in contact with law enforcement officials in Buol. Amran was also being watched after the management of Hardaya Inti Plantations approached him as well.
A Tempo source who followed this case said that Amran was first approached by Yani Ansori, general manager of Hardaya, after the Buol Land Evaluation Team issued its recommendation. The recommendation, dated last April 8 to the regent was to turn down the request to operate at the PT Sebuku Inti Plantations, a subsidiary of Hardaya Inti in the Tiloan district, still in Buol regency. In letter No. 100/57.06/Addum dated June 7, Amran decided to turn down the Sebuku company's request.
Ramli Kadidia, who headed the Buol Regency Business Verification Team, confirmed that they had recommended that Sebuku Inti Lestari's request be rejected. He said approval granting additional land was not given because the land for which the recommendation requested, had long been operational. "It's strange to ask for a recommendation after the plantation was already up and running," he said.
This decision confounded officials at Hardaya. They felt they had good relations with Amran. Moreover, since early 2012, Totok Lestiyo, director of Hardaya Inti Plantations, had helped Amran prepare his reelection campaign, scheduled for early this month. "In addition to funding the survey cost, Hardaya also disbursed money to make campaign T-shirts," said the source.
According to another source, Amran used the recommendation letter to ask Murdaya for additional funds. Around mid-June, Amran went to Jakarta to meet with her. "They met and discussed money," they said.
Soon afterwards, the amount of Rp1 billion was received by the regent at his home on June 20. Stacks of Rp100,000 bills were put into a bag, and delivered by Yani Ansori and other associates. At that time, eight investigators were standing by to make an arrest.
That afternoon a number of officers had followed Yani on the trip to Amran's house. Other officers mingled with supporters of the incumbent regent, many of whom had gathered around his home. "However, one officer let his guard down, and the transaction of handing over the bag of money was not seen," said one eyewitness.
Investigators then decided to stop the operation, because if they forced the issue, gathering the evidence would be difficult. In other words, they could not locate the bag of money. "The team was finally called back to Jakarta," they said.
Four days later, the officers returned to Buol. A series of conversations via cellphone between Yani and Amran about the plan to hand over the money were clearly recorded. On Tuesday morning, in the last week of June, Yani Anshori ended up handing over the bag containing Rp2 billion to Amran at a street close to an oil palm plantation. Officers quickly went into action.
When officers rushed to handcuff him, Amran resisted. Hearing his shouts, his bodyguards armed with knives and swords rushed over and attacked. Amran ran off and got into a Mitsubishi L200 automobile. He ordered the driver to crash into one officer driving a motorcycle, who was attempting to block the way. The vehicle's engine was revved, leaving behind a very crushed and flattened motorcycle.
After escaping the first arrest, Amran was named a suspect. Two weeks later Amran was caught at his home, on July 6. From the Toli Toli police station, he was flown to Jakarta. This Golkar politician is currently being held in an underground detention area at the KPK building.
After arresting Amran, KPK investigators directed their attention to where the bribe money came from. A Tempo source said that Hartati Murdaya, CEO of Hardaya Inti Plantations, was allegedly aware of and played a role in giving the money to Amran. Some direct communications between the two were recorded by the KPK.
Soon after receiving the bag containing Rp1 billion from Yani Anshori on June 20, according to a Tempo source, Amran telephoned Murdaya. He thanked her for having sent the 'assistance.'
Furthermore, according to the same source, Murdaya dominated the conversation. It is suspected that this former member of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) offered an additional Rp2 billion, with a condition. "Please take care of that 70." It is not clear what this meant, but the source suspects that the figure mentioned by Murdaya is linked to the planned expansion of Hardaya's oil palm plantation to 70,000 hectares.
In this communication, Amran did not refuse or agree. A few days later Yani delivered Rp2 billion to Amran. "Her other conversations were clearly recorded," said this source.
KPK Deputy Chairman Zulkarnain did not deny those communications took place. He confirmed that in the Amran case, investigators had plenty of leads, prior to catching them in the act. "That is evidence which will be tested in court," he said.
Murdaya denied that bribes were given to Amran. She said the money was nothing more than a donation to the regional government for its social work. "And it did not come to Rp3 billion," she said. Atmajaya Salim, Murdaya's lawyer, also denied there was a telephone conversation between his client and Amran. "That is not possible," he said. "Ibu Hartati does not even know Amran's cellular phone number."
Amat Y. Entedaim confirmed that a meeting took place between his client and Murdaya. He said at that time, Amran had asked for Rp3 billion to support him in his reelection bid. "Ibu Hartati agreed, but it was not given right away because it would violate the regulations on giving donations during elections."
Amat said that the money had nothing to do with getting the land authorized. This is because, he added, after receiving the money, Amran was asked to sign an IOU.
As of last week, Amran has been questioned four times as a witness in the case against Yani Anshori and Gondo Sudjono. According to Amat, during the questioning, Amran was only asked to listen to the recordings of their telephone conversations, wiretapped by the investigators. "Then I was asked whose voice it was and what they meant."
As for Murdaya's fate, one top KPK official said that she and Amran will meet again soon, although in quite different circumstances than their previous meeting.
By Setri Yasra, Rusman Paraqbueq, Ayu Prima Sandi
No. 48/12, July 24, 2012