KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Astro All Asia Networks has accused Indonesia’s Lippo Group of using forgery allegations against its chief executive, Ralph Marshall, to avoid paying some RM900 million in damages it owed the Malaysian broadcaster from an international arbitration award.
Marshall, the right hand man of Malaysian multi-billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan, is already on Indonesia’s most wanted person’s list for fraud and money laundering charges of over RM270 million, and the republic’s police are now seeking a red notice alert from Interpol.
The Interpol alert would place Marshall on the wanted list of all member countries and turn him into an international fugitive if he should seek to avoid capture.
But Singapore’s Straits Times reported today that Astro’s lawyers have rejected Indonesia’s criminal claims against Marshall, saying they were “misleading”, and are attempting to clear the allegations.
Citing a statement from the Malaysian broadcaster, the daily said that Astro’s lawyers now plan to seek an audience with Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin to set the matter straight.
According to the lawyers, Indonesia’s Lippo Group is “using the police and the criminal law to launch personal attacks against Astro’s CEO”.
ST recounted its article in February 2010, which reported that Astro had won a suit against Lippo Group at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre over its failed joint venture with its former Indonesian partner PT Ayunda Prima Mitra, a subsidiary of First Media.
First Media is part of the Lippo Group, with which the Jakarta Globe is affiliated.
According to ST, the Lippo Group, which is led by Mochtar Riady and his son, James, is ranked as one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates with interests in finance, property and infrastructure.
Marshall has been accused by Lippo Group of forging documents that have purportedly resulted in the loss of an estimated US$90 million (RM270 million) to Ayunda Prime Mitra.
“What is happening here is very clear. Astro and Lippo had a commercial dispute and decided to resolve it through international arbitration.
“Lippo (Group) lost the case and was ordered to pay up to US$300 million (RM900 million) in damages to Astro, (and) it is trying to avoid doing so by filing criminal charges against one of Astro’s top executives.
“Their calculation is that if they can exploit the criminal law to cause confusion and fear, they can avoid paying the damages,” Astro lawyer Hafzan Taher was quoted by ST as saying in the statement.
ST also quoted Hafzan as insisting that Marshall had never had an operational function in Direct Vision or any responsibility in the company, which owns a multimedia licence from the Indonesian government.
According to ST, Astro’s Ananda and Lippo’s Riady family had agreed in 2005 to set up a joint venture to operate a pay-TV business in the republic through Direct Vision.
But following the commercial dispute between both conglomerates, operations for the satellite television service ceased in October 2008.