Indonesia Freeport chief: Lawmaker wanted stakes, attempted extortion

JAKARTA, Indonesia—The head of US mining giant Freeport's Indonesian unit told Thursday, December 3 how a powerful lawmaker had demanded a stake in the company, during testimony to a parliamentary committee about an escalating extortion scandal.

Parliament speaker Setya Novanto is facing mounting pressure to resign after he was allegedly recorded demanding the chief of Freeport-McMoRan's Indonesian unit agree to hand over shares in exchange for ensuring the miner can continue operating in the country

Novanto, from the opposition Golkar Party, denies the accusations.

The controversy has dominated the news in Indonesia since it emerged several weeks ago, and escalated this week when parliament's ethics committee kicked off an investigation.

Testifying to the committee Thursday, Freeport Indonesia president director Maroef Sjamsuddin said he decided to make the recording, which he later handed to the government, after growing suspicious of Novanto's motives ahead of their meeting in June.

In the recording, the man alleged to be Novanto, accompanied by a businessman, is heard using the names of President Joko Widodo and the vice president as he makes his demands. (READ: ANALYSIS: Freeport deal a victory for Jokowi)

"I was thinking to myself, this conversation is not appropriate, if they want to talk about business please stick to business," Sjamsuddin told the committee, adding he decided to stop the conversation after more than two hours.

Sjamsuddin said he first reported the conversation, which he recorded on his mobile phone, to his superiors to "show my integrity and transparency" before the recording was handed to the government.

Energy Minister Sudirman Said filed a report against Novanto with a parliamentary body that probes alleged ethics violations, which triggered the parliamentary probe.

Freeport-McMoRan operates one of the world's biggest gold and copper mines in the eastern Indonesian region of Papua. The company is in talks with the government about extending its contract in Indonesia, which expires in 2021. —