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Police, AGO at Odds Over Fate of the Lapindo Case

The East Java Police on Wednesday affirmed that they had no intention of dropping a criminal case against a drilling company believed to be partially responsible for the mud volcano that has displaced tens of thousands in Sidoarjo, East Java.

The statement came after Attorney General Hendarman Supanji said on Monday that his office was certain it could not win a criminal case against the company, PT Lapindo Brantas, and therefore had no desire to bring it to court.

“Police have fulfilled prosecutors’ requirement to complete the dossier once again and we submitted the dossier to the East Java Prosecutor’s Office last week,” Chief Comr. Edi Supriyadi, the director of the criminal unit of the East Java Police, told the Jakarta Globe. “Now, we just have to wait for the decision of the prosecutors.”

Under existing regulations, prosecutors have two weeks to determine whether the case file from the police, needed for them to prepare an indictment, is complete or still needs improvement.

If the case file is deemed complete, prosecutors are required to indict the suspects as soon as possible. The prosecutor’s office has already returned the case file to the police four times, arguing it was incomplete and vague.

“The fact is that we found an act of negligence on the site. Thousands of homes are inundated by the mud. It’s also supported by our geological experts as witnesses in this case,” Edi said, adding that prosecutors should take the case to court.

Hendarman had argued that since geological experts were still split over the cause of the mudflow that began gushing on May 29, 2006 — one group said it was caused by faulty drilling by Lapindo and another blamed a major earthquake two days earlier and hundreds of kilometers away — prosecutors would not be able to convince the judges that there was a criminal case.

The attorney general also said he didn’t want a repeat of the defeat prosecutors suffered in the case against PT Newmont Minahasa Raya, the local unit of US-based Newmont Mining Corp., which was acquitted of charges of having dumped toxic waste into Buyat Bay in North Sulawesi by a court there in 2007.

The police have declared 13 Lapindo executives and staff members as suspects, including Imam Prio Agustino, Lapindo’s general manager, and Aswan P. Siregar, its former general manager.

The two were not detained because police considered them cooperative during the investigation. *

(c) The Jakarta Globe

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