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Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja
Sunday, Aug 3, 2014

Asia

WikiLeaks bribery claims: Yudhoyono asks Australia to clear the air

The Straits Times | Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja | Sunday, Aug 3, 2014

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has defended himself against a claim in WikiLeaks that he was among leaders in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam investigated in a bribery scandal, where currency printing contracts were secured by a company linked to the Reserve Bank of Australia.

At a media briefing yesterday, Dr Yudhoyono urged the Australian authorities to clarify what had happened rather than raise "suspicions" by keeping quiet.

In June, an Australian court issued a gag order in a highly sensitive bribery case that names both serving and former leaders in Asia. The names were not mentioned in Australia's media, but appeared in reports in Malaysia and other countries.

The order, published by whistle-blower site WikiLeaks on Tuesday, banned the release of information, to prevent damage to Australia's international ties and to avoid hurting the reputations of people not facing criminal charges, according to news.com.au.

"The Australian government should not make any policy statements that in turn trigger suspicion, or allegation, against anyone outside Australia, including Ms Megawati and myself. I appeal to Australia to make a clear statement," Dr Yudhoyono said. Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri was president from 2001 to 2004.

Dr Yudhoyono said he had checked with relevant parties in Indonesia, including the finance minister and central bank governor, and understood that 550 million 100,000 rupiah bills were printed in Australia in 1999 - five years before he became President.

He noted that, in Indonesia, the central bank, not the Jakarta government, makes decisions related to the printing of money, and he had asked the bank to provide a "complete, thorough and technical explanation".

"If there is any element in Indonesia, anyone deemed to be involved in a wrongdoing that might have happened during the currency printing process, please disclose who they are, so a prosecution can start," he said.

The Australian Embassy in Jakarta promptly responded to Dr Yudhoyono's statement yesterday. In a statement e-mailed to Indonesian media, it said the Australian government has stressed that the Indonesian President and the former president were not the subject of the investigation. It added that the Australian government feels the suppression orders are the best means of protection against unwarranted innuendo.

"This is a long-running, complicated case that names a large number of individuals," it said. "The naming of such figures in the orders does not imply wrongdoing on their part."

Australia's Reserve Bank has been embroiled in a scandal over bribes allegedly paid by its officials to win lucrative deals in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

At least nine officials in Australia have been charged. The authorities in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have arrested several officials accused of taking bribes.

wahyudis@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 01, 2014.
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