26 Jan 2006

Indonesian defence minister to probe US mine's payments to soldiers

9:31 am on 26 January 2006

Indonesia's defence minister will investigate payments by the US mining company Freeport to the Indonesian military in exchange for security services in the province of Papua.

Juwono Sudarsono says he's asked the inspector general of defence to verify whether Freeport paid US$20m to high-ranking Indonesian security officials between 1998 and 2004.

Freeport has admitted it paid the military about US$6m in 2002 to protect its employees.

The company argues it's forbidden from hiring private security guards.

But Indonesian law bans direct payments to members of the military, specifying that security support should be organised through a government agency.