Special task force to investigate Busang gold fraud

INDONESIAN police have formed a task force to investigate the Busang gold scam.

Police spokesman Brigadier-General Nurfaizi told The Straits Times that the special team would be given free reign to question active and retired staff of the Energy and Mines Department and other ministries.

“We are conducting preliminary investigations right now and drawing up a list of people who we suspect might have been involved,” he said.

“We will probe all those who were involved in this case. Anyone connected with Busang will come under police scrutiny.”

He said the task force, which was formed at the request of Energy and Mines Minister I.B. Sudjana, included officers from the Criminal Investigations Department and staff from the police forensic-crime division. It would be led by CID chief Brigadier-General Rusdihardjo.

BG Nurfaizi said: “Our aim is to question those involved and collect data to see what loopholes were exploited in this case.”

Besides questioning those connected with the case in Indonesia, police would also go overseas to conduct investigations. Asked if the team would interview Bre-X Mineral’s president David Walsh, he replied: “We might do that.”

Brigadier-General Ahwil Luthan of Indonesian Interpol said that the task force would work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to solve the case.

“We will coordinate investigations with them to catch the culprits,” he said. “This whole affair was committed not just on Indonesian soil.”

Police sources said forensic specialists would examine the Busang gold samples to see how they were doctored.

Mining experts believe that “salting” could have been done on the gold samples.

“Salting” consists of adding gold to the sample drilled from the ground before it is sent to the laboratory for testing.

The Busang gold mine in East Kalimantan was reputed to have 71 million ounces of gold. An interim report on Monday by independent consultants Strathcona Mineral Services, however, said that the gold samples were tampered with and described it as a scam “without precedent in the history of mining anywhere in the world”.

The Indonesian government has vowed to take legal action against Canadian firm Bre-X if it was proved to have acted fraudulently. It has frozen Bre-X and its subsidiaries’ activities until investigations are completed.

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