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Pacific News Minute: Indonesia's Speaker Resigns Over $4 Billion Shakedown

JasonParis / Flickr
JasonParis / Flickr

Last week, the speaker of Indonesia's parliament resigned as an ethics committee listened to a recording, where he demanded a four billion dollar payoff from an American mining company.  Money that he said, would be split with the country's president and Vice President.  Details on what's been called Indonesia's biggest corruption scandal from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Mamroef Sjamsoeddin, who now heads the Indonesian division of US mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, used to be deputy director of Indonesia's spy agency.  Last week, he told the parliamentary ethics committee that he got suspicious when the speaker of parliament wanted to talk with him about an extension of the company's contract for the largest gold mine in the world.  So he decided to bring along a tape recorder.  In the meeting, Setya Novanto asked that 4-billion dollars’ worth of shares be channeled through him, to President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.   

President Joko emphatically denies any knowledge.  Vice President Kalla told reporters that the speaker had acted entirely on his own.  Speaker Setya initially denied asking for the money; when the recording emerged - he said he'd only been joking.

While he's resigned as speaker, Setya remains a member of parliament and it's unclear whether he will face criminal charges, even though the parliamentary hearings became must see TV in Indonesia.

Freeport's Grasberg complex in Papua province contains both the world's largest gold mine, and the third largest copper mine.  The company's Indonesian Division is the largest taxpayer in the country, but a frequent target of environmentalists and nationalists.  The Governor of Papua Province, Lukas Enembe, told Radio New Zealand International that the company paid nothing to the local community for the use and destruction of its environment.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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