​​Top Indonesian ministers named in Pandora Papers keep distance from scandal

Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan (Left) and Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto (Right).
Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan (Left) and Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto (Right).

It’s fair to say at this point that the Pandora Papers scandal hasn’t had as much of an explosive impact in Indonesia as it has abroad, but all eyes are now on two of the country’s top cabinet ministers after they were reportedly named in the leak.

According to Tempo, the only Indonesian publication involved in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that has pored over the mountain of leaked documents, Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan and Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto ⁠— both widely seen as close confidants of President Joko Widodo ⁠— ran offshore tax havens.

As outlined by Tempo in this Twitter thread, Luhut sat in board meetings at Panama-based Petrocapital SA, while Airlangga owned two shell companies, Buckley Development Corporation and Smart Property Holdings Limited, both of which are registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The Golkar politicians (Airlangga currently chairs the political party) have not personally made any statements in direct response to Tempo’s report. They have had people speaking on their behalf, however, with Luhut’s spokesman Jodi Mahardi confirming the senior minister’s involvement in Petrocapital but denied any illicit activities while he was at the helm of the company.

“This company was founded in 2006 by Eduardo E. Dia and Fernando A. Gil. Petrocapital had a capital injection of US$5 million, and one of its operations was oil and gas,” Jodi said yesterday.

Jodi added that Luhut was CEO of Petrocapital from 2007 to 2010, but eventually pulled out due to uncertainties on his investment.

“Luhut Pandjaitan decided to step back from Petrocapital and focus on his businesses in Indonesia,” Jodi said.

Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of Luhut and Airlangga, Golkar called for due diligence before coming to the conclusion that the two politicians have been involved in illicit activities.

“If we read on social media, it’s not clear what the source is. But one national print media outlet has reported it,” Golkar Secretary General Lodewijk F. Paulus said yesterday.

“We don’t know the source; it’s unclear. If we look at English language media, [Luhut and Airlangga’s names] were not mentioned, but in Indonesian media they are mentioned. We are waiting for clarity there.”

It’s worth noting that in ICIJ’s first comprehensive Pandora Papers report, there is indeed no mention of the two ministers or any Indonesian groups/individuals for that matter. It remains to be seen if they would be named in follow-up reports.

The Pandora Papers report, a collaboration of 600 journalists from around the world, is based on more than 11.9 million documents and other records leaked from 12 offshore service providers that help to set up and manage shell firms and trusts in tax havens worldwide.

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