Top Indonesian energy official barred from travel in latest government scandal - media

JAKARTA Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:34am BST

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in Singapore April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in Singapore April 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Edgar Su

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - A top Indonesian energy official has been banned from overseas travel, media reported on Saturday, in the latest graft case this month which threatens to further tarnish President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's final year in office.

The reported travel ban on Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Secretary General, Waryono Karno, follows the arrest earlier this month of the head of the energy regulator SKKMigas, Rudi Rubiandini, on bribery charges after large amounts of cash were found in his Jakarta home.

Officials from the Corruption Eradication Agency (KPK) and the immigration office were not immediately available for comment.

"Yes, that was two days ago," Kompas daily quoted deputy head of the KPK Busryo Muqoddas as saying when asked if his agency had requested the travel ban on Waryono.

KPK routinely imposes travel bans when it is investigating individuals in corruption cases, and has already imposed them on three other SKKMigas officials.

Waryono has come under investigation after $200,000 (128,907 pounds) was found in a bag in his office, KPK officials have said, although the Jakarta Post quoted Energy Minister Jero Wacik as saying the money was for legitimate purposes.

The scandals are the first to hit the top levels of the energy ministry, which oversees a major part of Southeast Asia's biggest economy. The Indonesian economy is heavily dependent of the production of oil, gas, coal and several metals.

They add to confusion over government policy in the industry and could undermine attempts to attract more investment from international energy companies, several of which have threatened to scale back operations due to uncertainty about the investment environment.

The cases also come at a tricky time for President Yudhoyono. The energy minister is a top member of Yudhoyono's ruling Democratic Party and the party's fortunes have already been damaged by other high-profile corruption cases which are expected to come to court in the next few months.

The minister has denied any involvement in the SKKMigas case.

The scandals undermine Yudhoyono's claims that during his two terms as president he has successfully reduced the graft that has long been a routine part of doing business in the world's fourth most populous nation.

It also comes as his legacy for successfully managing the economy comes under attack from a global retreat by investors from emerging markets, especially those like Indonesia that are running large current account deficits.

If the cases spread they could add to the problems of Yudhoyono's party, which has seen its popularity slide ahead of next year's parliamentary and presidential elections.

Opinion polls almost all show that Jakarta's popular governor, in office for less than a year but widely viewed as clean and effective, would easily win the presidential race.

Governor Joko Widodo has not said whether he would run and the party he is most closely linked to, the opposition PDI-P, has yet to decide who its candidate will be next July.

Just the possibility that he will run has been enough to shake up the political establishment. Most of the other likely candidates owe their initial rise to links to the now widely discredited former president Suharto.

Suharto was the second of two autocrats who dominated most of Indonesia's nearly 70 years of independence.

In a sign of the consternation Widodo has caused among established parties, the presidential candidate for the Golkar party - Suharto's political vehicle - was quoted by media as saying he would be prepared to be the governor's running mate.

(Editing by Paul Tait)

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