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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Indonesia probes 'irregular' bankruptcy
Manulife logo and money
The inquiry results will be made public
Indonesia's justice minister has launched a bribery investigation into three judges who passed a shock bankruptcy ruling against a foreign-owned firm.

The court ruling against Manulife Indonesia unnerved foreign investors and triggered strong protests from the parent company, Canadian insurance giant Manulife Financial Corporation.

"I have ordered the (ministry) inspector general to form a team to investigate the three judges who handled the Manulife case," justice minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra said.

"I see that there are irregularities and it is against these irregularities that we will act firmly," he said adding that the focus would be on "suspicions of bribery and collusion".

Legal wrangle

The commercial court judges declared Manulife Indonesia bankrupt on 13 June even though it reported a profit last year.

The ruling was the latest round in a bitter legal battle between Manulife and its former local partner, Dharmala Group, which was declared bankrupt in June 2000.

The court's decision was based on Manulife Indonesia's failure to pay a dividend to shareholders in 1999, including Dharmala.

Manulife Indonesia's operations have been shut down since Friday evening after the bankruptcy receiver threatened to detain company managers.

The Jakarta Commercial Court said it would consider Manulife's request to reopen on Wednesday, along with its demand that the receiver be replaced.

International pressure

The minister has asked for the judges at the centre of the allegations to be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

The results are expected by 4 July and the minister promised they would be made public.

He added that any evidence of bribery or collusion would be handed to prosecutors for possible criminal charges.

Mr Mahendra said the government would not get involved in the legal process and criticised "threats" of intervention from the Canadian government and international lenders including the International Monetary Fund.

"We are not afraid of these threats," he said.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Anton Alifandi
"The former partner of Manulife Indonesia has tried repeatedly to destabilise the Canandian company."
See also:

12 Jun 02 | Business
14 Mar 02 | Business
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