Politicians accuse Yudhoyono of lying in Bank Century bailout saga
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The House of Representatives is expected to set up a new inquiry committee on the Bank Century bailout following a revelation from former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Antasari Azhar claiming that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono played a key role in the decision to disburse Rp 6.7 trillion (US$710.2 million) to save the troubled bank.
Antasari recently told Metro TV news that he was asked to join a closed-door meeting chaired by Yudhoyono in 2009 to discuss what measures should be taken to “save the country” from a possible crisis caused by the collapse of Bank Century.
According to Antasari, several senior government officials attended the meeting including Vice President Boediono, who was then governor of the central bank, former National Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri, former attorney general Hendarman Supanji, former coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Widodo AS, former finance minister Sri Mulyani, state secretary Hatta Rajasa, presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng and a member of the presidential advisory team, Denny Indrayana, now deputy law and human rights minister.
Antasari said he briefed Yudho-yono on the possible legal complications that could arise from a government decision to bail out the ailing bank. Antasari said he could understand the government’s move but warned about possible legal action being brought against the government by those who deemed the bailout a violation of the banking law.
Lawmakers said they had no prior knowledge about the meeting and lauded Antasari for his bravery in stepping forward and making the claim.
Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker Fahri Hamzah said Antasari’s information would help the work of the House monitoring team, which is investigating the bailout.
“Antasari has given us new facts. From his statement we have learned that the entire bailout scheme was political. The House will set up an inquiry committee to examine the President’s role in the matter. It will take a long time but legal action can still be taken long after he ends his tenure as President if so determined in court,” Fahri said.
Fahri, who is a member of the House monitoring team on the Bank Century bailout, was part of an inquiry committee set up in 2008.
Contacted separately, lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo of the Golkar Party said the monitoring team planned to summon the KPK to discuss a new strategy to prosecute the case, so that it could fulfill its promise to resolve it by the end of this year.
“Antasari has revealed a very important fact as it indicates the Presidential Palace was involved in a cover-up. All the officials who once denied Yudhoyono’s role in saving Bank Century cannot refute this latest statement,” Bambang told reporters.
Responding to Antasari’s statement, Yudhoyono said his decision to salvage the ailing bank was made for the sake of the country’s economic stability, which had to weather the 2008–2009 global economic slowdown.
“The political cost was indeed high,” Yudhoyono said in his opening remarks at a meeting in the BRI building in South Jakarta.
He defended the bailout by saying that the amount spent on Bank Century was miniscule compared to what the European Union (EU) had spent on stemming the financial crises in several eurozone states, which could reach Rp 1,000 trillion.
Yudhoyono had earlier said in 2010 that he was responsible for the decision made by the finance minister to save Bank Century. “The policy was a choice of existing options. It was made with authority and undertaken in good faith. Based on the situation, a decision needed to be made quickly,” he told bankers at the State Palace.