Sunday, December 25, 2011

Indonesia: Attorney General’s Office Names New Suspect in Merpati Nusantara Airlines Lease Case

The Attorney General’s Office has declared a former general manager of state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines a new suspect in a case of corruption linked to the lease of two Boeing aircraft from a United States-based company.

“The team of investigators has already declared a new suspect whose initials are T.S. He was the general manager of Merpati at the time,” Andhi Nirwanto, deputy attorney general for special crimes, said on Friday.

AGO spokesman Noor Rachmad said documents on the investigation mentioned the name Tony Sudjiarto.

“His role was to conduct negotiations with TALG [Thirdstone Aircaft Leasing Group],” Noor said, adding that Tony faced charges of two violations of the anti-corruption law.

Meanwhile, Lawrence T.P. Siburian, the lawyer for former Merpati president director Hotasi Nababan, who is already a suspect in the case, said Tony was not involved in the negotiations with Thirdstone.

“I don’t think it was his job. The negotiation is already in the realm of the duties of the board of directors,” he said.

He said that Tony was only supposed to check on the two aircraft. The first was still undergoing an overhaul in Guangzhou, China, and the second was still leased by Batavia Air and was in Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Merpati signed a deal with Thirdstone to lease a Boeing 737-400 and a Boeing 737-500. It paid a $1 million security deposit but never received the planes, and neither did it receive a refund.

The company filed a lawsuit against Thirdstone in April 2007 for breach of contract.

A district court in Washington, D.C., issued a verdict ordering Thirdstone to return the $1 million deposit, but the payment never materialized. It was not clear what further legal steps the company was taking.

In August, the AGO named two Merpati officials as suspects: Hotasi, who led the company when the deal was made in 2006, and former finance director Guntur Aradea.

The Thirdstone deal came under the AGO’s scrutiny because it suspected the agreement was drawn up without the consent of the minister and because state losses were incurred.

Merpati is also being investigated regarding its purchase of 15 Chinese-made MA60 planes, one of which crashed in Papua this year, killing all 25 passengers on board.

Under a 2006 contract between Merpati and Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, each aircraft was priced at $14.1 million.

It was later discovered that airlines in the Philippines, Ghana and Nepal had bought the same type of aircraft for $11 million each.

The deal was also dogged by concerns that the MA60s were not certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration, whose guidelines, though not mandatory in Indonesia, are considered a standard around the world.

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