JAKARTA - Two celebrity sisters who appeared in a teddy bear video that also featured tycoon-politician Aburizal Bakrie said they were blackmailed after a memory card with a video clip of their holiday in the Maldives nearly four years ago was stolen by persons unknown.
Images of actress Olivia Zalianty, 32, hugging a toy bear, and separate ones of Mr Bakrie, Golkar party chief and presidential hopeful, hugging the same bear, have become fodder for a smear campaign by political rivals.
In other parts of the video, Ms Zalianty and her sister, Marcella, 34, also an actress, were seen in a private jet with Mr Bakrie and a senior Golkar official.
Many newspapers and TV stations ran the story as well as pictures or video clips of their Maldives trip on Monday, together with explanations by Mr Bakrie, 67, his family and the two sisters.
Mr Bakrie and Golkar officials said he was with the Zalianty sisters and others in the Maldives on a "fact-finding mission" to see what lessons Indonesia could draw from the Maldives' success in attracting tourists.
Mr Bakrie, who is hoping to become Indonesia's next president when Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono steps down soon after two terms, has called the video and pictures, which have gone viral online, a kampanye hitam, or black campaign, mounted by political rivals.
The sisters said the memory card containing the video of the May 2010 trip was stolen by someone whom they did not name.
"We were blackmailed two months ago, before the video was leaked," the younger Ms Zalianty told reporters on Sunday.
"They asked for a large amount of money, but we didn't give it much thought," she was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Globe newspaper on Monday.
Mr Bakrie's wife Tatty told a news conference on Sunday with her husband and their two grown-up children that the two sisters are family friends.
"Marcella and Olivia are friends of our children and we treat them like our own daughters," she was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.
"I will stand staunchly behind my husband to defend him against political opponents who want to assassinate his character," she said.
Mr Bakrie told the Vivanews website: "The Maldives is a very small country, but its tourist numbers exceed those who come to Indonesia. We brought along those two sisters because they're very concerned about tourism.
"Olivia happens to enjoy diving, while Marcella likes making videos about marine tourism."
The Jakarta Globe pointed out that in 2010, when the group visited the Maldives, it brought in fewer than 800,000 tourist arrivals. Bali alone reported double that number in the same year.
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