Beef importer's bribes

01 Feb, 2013 06:20 AM

AN INDONESIAN company with deep links to the Australian beef industry has been caught red-handed offering bribes to an Indonesian politician, apparently to circumvent the country's strict quota on beef imports.

A number of Australian exporters use the company, Indoguna Utama, to ship beef to Indonesia, and one company, Mulwarra Export in Sydney, is part-owned by Indoguna's founder, Elizabeth Liman.

Two directors of Indoguna, Juardi Effendi and Arya Abdi Effendi, were arrested by Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission at a city hotel on Wednesday with 1 billion rupiah ($101,000) in cash in the car boot.

They are alleged to have been on their way to deliver a bribe to Lutfi Hasan Ishaaq, the president of the Islamic political party PKS.

Indonesia's agriculture minister, Suswono, represents the party in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government.

Anti-corruption officers sealed the office of the head of Mr Suswono's department, the director-general of livestock and animal health, as part of the investigation.

Mr Suswono imposed strict beef import quotas in the wake of Australia's short-lived ban on live cattle exports in 2011, on the pretext that Indonesia wanted to become self-sufficient in beef.

The quota, applying to live cattle as well as boxed beef, gutted the export trade with Australia and has resulted in shortages of beef in Indonesia, soaring prices and the inclusion of pork in traditional beef meatballs.

The commission's deputy chairman, Bambang Widjojanto, said the bribe was an attempt by Indoguna Utama to get access to a larger import allowance.

The arrests raise the question whether the quota - 32,000 tonnes of boxed beef this year - has become simply a bribe-raising exercise for PKS, which is part of Indonesia's governing coalition, with two cabinet ministers, including the communications minister.

Indoguna Utama lists five Australian exporters as ''partners'', including Andrews Meat in the Barossa Valley, Jack's Creek Wagyu Beef in Queensland, and Western Meat Packers Group in Western Australia.

Mulwarra Export's owner, Greg Darwell, told Fairfax Media on Thursday that Elizabeth Liman was a passive minority investor in the company. He said he knew nothing about the bribery allegations, and they surprised him.

''I personally, in the 16 years that I've been owner and runner of Mulwarra, have not directly seen any corruption,'' he said.

His company's exports to Indonesia had dropped by 20 per cent under the quota but, he said, it had picked up markets elsewhere, and was growing.

Another Australian exporter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was ''common knowledge'' bribes were ''part of the trade up there, on a daily basis, quota or no quota''.

''They're going to desperate measures to get beef into the country,'' the exporter said.

A spokesman for the Corruption Eradication Commission, Johan Budi, said its investigation would not extend to any Australian companies, and he did not yet know if the agriculture minister would be questioned.

An election will be held in Indonesia next year.

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Jen from the bush
1/02/2013 8:29:18 AM

Indonesia now has a anti-corruption office. Wow Great Wonder how big it is?
Top Ender
1/02/2013 8:41:31 AM

How amazing, corruption in Indonesia!
1/02/2013 9:21:09 AM

Bigger bribes needed .
1/02/2013 10:20:25 AM

From the comments one would gather people know the nation to be corrupt. So how on earth do you lot think ESCAS would actually prevent animal abuse and cruelty? It doesnt and it never will. And the cruelty will go unreported just like it did all those other times when the industry knew what was happening. How the hell can you people sleep at night?
Ian Mott
1/02/2013 10:43:25 AM

Yep folks, that news to Fairfax. An Indonesian employed at an Indonesian company paid a bribe to an Indonesian decision maker. For the record, part of the Indonesian defence budget requires officers right down to regional level to supplement their budget allocations with funds from 'commercial ventures' etc. We call it corruption but when we add the amount of this so-called corruption to the total tax take we find that their government sector is actually smaller than ours. Former President Suharto's wife, Madame Tien, was universally known as "Madame Ten percent".
1/02/2013 11:27:50 AM

pork in meatballs! how halal is that?
Paul Wilson
1/02/2013 12:10:15 PM

Keith, have you even worked in an Aussie abattoir?? have you ever been to Indo to see animal handling over there? I don't see how anyone can take you seriously if you can't answer 'Yes' to both questions.
Real Deal
1/02/2013 12:20:17 PM

Corruption in Indonesia ?? Next they'll be telling us that there's Catholicism in the vatican !! The only scoop here would be if someone could prove which of the two was more prevalent.
1/02/2013 2:05:52 PM

Gee Keith I don't know, probably the same as you? Then again you probably don't sleep too well, worrying so much about the poverty and other injustices in the world. Or perhaps worrying about how you can think up more ridiculous issues to send into farmer forums?
Jo Bloomfield
1/02/2013 2:16:33 PM

Many questioned if bribes were paid for workers to treat animals worse for footage in the Indonesian abs way back in late 2010 early 2011, of course they never happened. Yeh right!!!!!! I have faith with ESCAS doing what it was set up to do in Indonesia. anyone got the address to send money too to get more cattle in there. I'd be happy to pay., signed NT Producer hurting.
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Boycott the ABC but go on a Sandilands show???? What does he expect????
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I think you must have me confused with someone else Ivan. Either that or your comprehension of
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Thank you, Ivan. You're right. Caterpillar, your assertion about 18-year-olds is factually