Sri Mulyani Hits Back at Critics Over Bank Century

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati launched a counterattack against her political critics on Sunday, producing a videotape that refuted allegations she had huddled with former PT Bank Century owner Robert Tantular before deciding to bail out the troubled lender last year. The video was of the final part of a brainstorming session of the Financial System Stability Committee (KSSK) with senior officials from the central bank, the Finance Ministry and the Deposit Insurance Agency (LPS) on Nov. 21, 2008, the day the committee decided to bail out Bank Century. The tape shows Sri Mulyani, Vice President Boediono ­— the BI governor at the time — KSSK secretary Raden Pardede, head of the President’s Working Unit for the Management of Reform Programs, Marsilam Simanjuntak, and other officials. However, Tantular was not seen or heard on the tape. On Friday, Golkar’s Bambang Soesatyo, a member of the House of Representatives committee investigating the controversial Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout, claimed to have a recording of a conservation between Sri Mulyani and Tantular at the meeting in question, in which the disgraced banker allegedly urged the minister to “just make the conclusion that the economy is in crisis” and rescue the bank. His comments were met with swift denials by Sri Mulyani, Boediono and Tantular, who is now in prison for fraud. “I never met, talked to or even personally know a person named Robert Tantular,” Sri Mulyani said. “It is despicable slander. We all hope the investigations go on transparently and credibly.” The House and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) are investigating the bailout amid unsubstantiated allegations that some of the funds were embezzled by political figures, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s re-election team. The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), which conducted a damning audit of the bailout, is scheduled to meet today with officials from the KPK, National Police and Attorney General’s Office to discuss its findings. Last week, Sri Mulyani told the Wall Street Journal that the House investigation into the Bank Century bailout was an attempt to discredit her. She also expressed doubts that the Golkar Party, which has been pushing for a full investigation, would be fair to her, given her strained relationship with the party’s chairman, Aburizal Bakrie. Her comments sparked outrage among Golkar lawmakers, causing further speculation that Sri Mulyani’s days as finance minister were numbered. Prior to Sunday, there had been a growing chorus among lawmakers for Sri Mulyani, as well as Boediono, who had pushed for the bailout, to resign to avoid hampering the investigations. However, it appears that Bambang overplayed his hand. Raden said the voice on the videotape that Bambang had claimed was Tantular was actually Marsilam. Tantular, he said, was waiting on the second floor of the Finance Ministry, while the meeting was held on the third floor. “He was brought there by the central bank because his bank was likely about to be bailed out,” Raden said of Tantular. Marsilam, he said, interrupted Sri Mulyani as she was mentioning Tantular’s name, creating the appearance he was part of the conversation. Earlier on Sunday, Bambang reiterated that Golkar had received a recording of a conversation between Sri Mulyani and Tantular and needed to confirm when it occurred. He also said it didn’t matter if the recording was wrong because, as a lawmaker, he was immune from prosecution. “What I said was in accordance with my duties. My duty is to find evidence, which is the recording. If it is said to be slander, prove it.”

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