Bank Century Data Dispute Gets Murky

A confusing dispute between two government agencies over financial information related to the probe of the PT Bank Century bailout has deepened, while the agency directly involved in the bailout has denied that any of the funds were diverted for political uses. The government anti-money laundering agency, the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), said it never barred the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) from accessing its data during a recently completed audit of the controversial bailout. “We want to clarify that the PPATK never refused any information demands from the BPK. The misinformation, we believe, is due to a misunderstanding [by the BPK] about the procedure for requesting information,” PPATK head Yunus Husein said in a statement obtained on Friday. BPK chairman Hadi Purnomo said earlier that his institution was unable to trace the bailout money because it could not obtain the relevant data from the PPATK. He also claimed that the law only allowed the PPATK to provide data on troubled companies to the police or prosecutors. The BPK’s failure to trace the Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) that was injected into Century last year has led to lawmakers pushing for their own inquiry and fevered speculation in the media over the uses of the money. Yunus said the BPK sent his agency several request letters seeking access to the data, but used the “wrong format” in the requests. He did not elaborate. Yunus said the PPATK asked the BPK to revise the requests but did not receive a response. He also said there was no current law barring his agency from cooperating with the BPK. “We state that the PPATK can give the information needed by the BPK,” Yunus said. Meanwhile, the Deposit Insurance Agency (LPS), the government body that rescued Century, insisted there was no “direct flow of funds” from the ailing bank to political parties in the run-up to the general elections this year. LPS Executive Director Firdaus Djaelani, told reporters on Thursday that Rp 4.3 trillion in deposits were retrieved from the bank between November 2008, when the bailout money was injected into Century, and December that year. The money was taken by depositors and not political parties, Firdaus said. Rumors have circulated widely that some of the bailout money was used to finance President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party or to illegally bail out important depositors, like businessman Boedi Sampoerna. Government officials involved in the bailout, including Vice President Boediono, who was central bank governor at the time, have said the rescue was necessary to save the banking system from risk during the global financial crisis and have denied having any political agenda for the action. “The bailout money was not used to pay the campaign team of a certain political party, not even one cent,” Firdaus said during a news conference with the management of PT Bank Mutiara, the new name of Bank Century. “Soon after the bailout, many depositors asked for their money to be transferred to other banks. We do not know where the money went after it left the bank and it is beyond our control. These depositors were real and had accounts in the bank.” Firdaus said that Rp 1.8 trillion of the Rp 4.3 trillion that left the bank after it was bailed out was mostly held by 328 big depositors, with each having more than Rp 5 billion in deposits. The LPS only guaranteed deposits of up to Rp 2 billion. He said the biggest depositor to pull out its money at the time was a state-owned company, but he did not give a name. “There is also nothing wrong with that. The bank was operating normally [after the bailout] and accounts were not frozen,” Firdaus said. “Depositors could take out their money.” He added that while a lot of money had left the bank, its new management had been able to convince more than half of the banks’ existing depositors to keep their money in the restructured bank.

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