Karen Galaila Agustiawan, the former president director of Indonesia’s state energy company Pertamina, has been detained by the nation’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and named a suspect in a historic liquefied natural gas procurement graft case.
“For investigative purposes, KPK investigators will detain the suspect for the first 20 days from 19 September to 8 October at the KPK state detention centre,” KPK chairman Firli Bahuri told reporters.
On Tuesday, Karen was named as a suspect in the alleged corrupt procurement of LNG at Pertamina from 2011 to 2021, which resulted in claimed state losses totalling 2.1 trillion rupiah ($136.4 million). She had been the national oil company’s president director from 2009 to 2014.
It is alleged that Karen’s proposed collaboration with a number of potential LNG suppliers to Indonesia was a decision she took unilaterally, without an in-depth study and without approval from Pertamina’s board of commissioners.
The former Pertamina boss maintains Pertamina did not make any losses due to LNG procurement. Also, she has always denied causing any financial harm to the government’s coffers, claiming that any financial losses were likely as result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Firli said that the alleged corruption came to the KPK’s attention via a public report and then it was investigated after sufficient evidence was found.
Karen — Pertamina’s first female president director — is no stranger to being hauled before the Commission and has already spent time behind bars.
The Jakarta Corruption Court in June 2019 sentenced her to eight years’ imprisonment on corruption charges after being convicted of causing state losses relating to Pertamina’s 2009 acquisition of equity in Roc Oil’s then-producing Basker Manta Gummy (BMG) oil asset offshore Australia.
However, in March 2020, Indonesia’s Supreme Court overturned Karen’s criminal conviction and she was released.
Even though the BMG deal resulted in estimated losses totalling 560 billion rupiah to the Indonesian state, the Supreme Court judges ruled that Karen’s actions and decisions were taken as a business judgement and, as such, could not be deemed criminal.
“According to the justices, a director’s decision regarding a company activity is inviolable, even if the decision ends up costing the company. It is part of the risk of doing business,” Supreme Court spokesperson Andi Samsan Ngoro said at the time.
Back in 2014, Karen was called as a witness in an unrelated corruption case that ended with Rudi Rubiandini, a former chairman of Indonesia’s upstream watchdog SKK Migas, imprisoned for seven years for allegedly accepting bribes worth more than $2 million from oil companies in exchange for securing tenders.