KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Indonesian authorities have not approached Astro All Asia Networks or its chief executive Ralph Marshall to assist in investigations into fraud charges, despite media reports in the republic claiming he is wanted, the pay television operator said today.
“To date, Marshall and his respective counsel in Indonesia have no knowledge of these summonses,” the local pay-TV provider said in a statement here.
It added that no details of the arrest warrant purportedly issued for Marshall have ever been communicated to him or any of his lawyers, other than what has been reported in the media.
“Moreover, none of the Indonesian authorities referred to in the press have approached Astro or Marshall to assist in any investigation,” the statement added.
According to Indonesian media, the republic’s police command had confirmed that Marshall is on Indonesia’s Most Wanted List and may soon be wanted by Interpol.
Indonesian police said they were also seeking a red notice alert from Interpol.
The red notice alert would make Marshall, who is the right-hand man of Malaysian multi-billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan, a wanted man in all countries and an international fugitive should he resist arrest.
Marshall has been accused by Indonesia’s Lippo Group of forging documents which had purportedly resulted in the loss of an estimated US$90 million (RM270 million) to PT Ayunda Prima Mitra.
Ayunda Prima Mitra was Astro’s former Indonesian partner and a subsidiary of First Media, which in turn, is part of the Lippo Group, with which the Jakarta Globe is affiliated.
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.
But Astro today also continued to reject the allegations of fraud and money laundering against Marshall, pledging it would go as far as seeking international redress to clear the latter’s name.
It countered that the allegations were merely a ploy by Lippo Group to avoid paying the RM900 million in damages it owed Astro from an international arbitration award granted by in February 2010.
“Astro categorically denies any wrong-doing on its part and on the part of Marshall, and will take all steps necessary to challenge these defamatory allegations against Marshall, including seeking relief available in international law.
“Astro remains confident that these allegations will be proved to be unsubstantiated and without basis, as had been on previous occasions,” the local broadcaster wrote in the statement.
“Astro and Lippo had a commercial dispute and decided to resolve it through international arbitration,” Astro’s counsel Hafzan Taher explained in the statement.
“Lippo 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 Marshall.
“Their calculation is that if they can exploit the criminal law to cause confusion and fear, they can avoid paying the damages,” he alleged.
Astro first entered a joint venture with First Media and other affiliates of Lippo Group in 2005, to set up a pay-TV business in Indonesia to be launched by PT Direct Vision.
PT Direct Vision is a subsidiary of First Media, which holds a multimedia licence from the Indonesian government.
The JV, however, could not be concluded. Pursuant to the dispute resolution process, Astro commenced arbitration proceedings against Lippo Group under the Singapore International Arbitration Centre to recover some US$560 million (RM1.68 billion), which it claimed to have incurred to establish the pay-TV business for Direct Vision.
According to Astro, during the time both parties were attempting to resolve their dispute over the establishment of the pay-TV business in 2008 and the arbitration proceedings in 2009, several individuals linked to Lippo Group had filed police reports against several top executives in Astro.
The reports alleged of “criminal misconduct” purportedly committed by Astro’s top guns including Marshall, and employees of Direct Vision.
But subsequent investigations by Indonesian police returned without any charges and an order to cease the probe was issued due to lack of evidence.
In February 2010, the Singapore Arbitration Centre ruled in favour of Astro, awarding the broadcaster US$300 million (RM900 million) in damages, interest and costs but Astro said this was not immediately settled.
Astro also registered the award in the High Court of Malaya, the Singapore High Court, Hong Kong High Court and the Central Jakarta District Court of Indonesia, as well as initiated proceedings to enforce the award in territories that are signatories to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).
But First Media appealed this registration on the grounds that the arbitral tribunal had no jurisdiction as the only legal forum for such a dispute was the Indonesian courts, Astro said.
“The Lippo Group had submitted themselves to and participated fully in the arbitration proceedings, through eminent counsel and their own witnesses, and at no time did the Lippo Group raise any issue of criminal misconduct during these proceedings, or indeed in their challenge of the enforcement of the award,” Astro wrote in the statement today.
On July 8 last year, however, Astro was granted a “worldwide mareva injunction” by the Singapore High Court, which requires First Media to declare all its assets and also restricts the company from disposing its assets pending full satisfaction of the RM900 million award it owes.
“Lippo Group has not complied with these orders and has, instead, appealed against the decision of the Singapore High Court in September 2011,” Astro wrote.