Mudslide explosion leaves corrupt minister in open

Who, me? In his first comments on that deal on Wednesday, just hours before the latest catastrophe, Mr Bakrie indignantly washed his hands of the mess, saying: "It doesn’t matter who the shareholders are; Lapindo must continue to bear the responsibility." Mr Bakrie’s company had previously tried to offload Lapindo to another company within the group, but was prevented from doing so by Indonesia’s capital regulator. However, it was revealed this week that the new owner is headed by a longtime American business associate of Mr Bakrie’s, and there were fears that the intention was to drive the company bankrupt so the minister can avoid further financial responsibility.

Emergency cabinet meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held an emergency cabinet meeting on 23 November night to assess the damage, after four senior ministers, including Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar, travelled to the explosion site.

Fire ball as Pertamina line explodes: The explosion on Wednesday night, believed to have been triggered by a rupture in the main east Java gas line after tonnes of the hot mud suddenly shifted, produced a fireball up to 100m high, affecting power supplies to Indonesia’s second-largest city. Tobarso, a spokesman for the national resources company Partamina, said the ruptured pipeline, which carries gas to East Java from several fields, including one majority-owned by Santos, had been affected by the mudflow for 15km. “There was a plan to move the pipeline, but it hasn’t happened yet," Toharso said.

What mates are for: It was revealed this week that although the Bakrie companies had evaded Indonesian regulatory scrutiny in its deal with Freehold Group, the British company was owned by Mr Bakrie’s business associate James Belcher. Mr Belcher, a member of the Indonesia America Chamber of 25 years’ history with the Bakrie family businesses, told The Financial Times newspaper that he and about eight associates had acquired Freehold to take over Lapindo and help out Mr Bakrie.

The Australian, 24/11/2006, p.1

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