Citibank Indonesia grilled over death of customer

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - Indonesian lawmakers grilled Citibank Indonesia executives on Wednesday over the death of a politician customer at one of the firm's branches and allegations of embezzlement.

Central Bank Indonesia Governor Darmin Nasution announced that Citibank had been barred from accepting new clients for its Citigold private banking services due to the ongoing embezzlement investigation.

Police are probing allegations that a staff member allegedly stole at least 17 billion rupiah (US$2 million) from customers' accounts.

"The customers can still do transactions, but the bank is not allowed to add more customers for the time being," Nasution said told a session of parliament's banking oversight committee.

Police have arrested three men on maltreatment charges over the mysterious death of politician Irzen Octa, 50, at a Citibank branch late last month during a meeting with debt collectors.

Citibank country manager Shariq Mukhtar expressed the company's "condolences" to Octa's family during an interrogation by lawmakers late Tuesday night.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the unexpected passing of our customer," he said.

"The police investigation is ongoing but based on what we know today, we do not believe anyone physically harmed Mr Octa when he came to our offices.

"There has been a great deal of speculation in the media about debt collection practices. Let me assure you that Citibank is committed to operating with the highest standards."

Bank executives were dragged back before the parliamentary commission in charge of banking regulations on Wednesday.

South Jakarta district police chief Gatot Edi Pramono told the televised session blood had been found on a curtain and wall inside the meeting room where Octa was last seen alive with two Citibank staff and two debt collectors.

He said the politician, who was disputing a US$12,000 credit card debt, was later seen alone on the floor with saliva coming from his mouth.

A witness told one of the suspects "but he only laughed", while another suspect claimed that Octa was faking injury, Pramono said.

"The witness then went out for lunch. After he came back, they hadn't taken any action" to help the customer.

A coroner's report is expected to clarify the cause of death later Wednesday.

Some lawmakers returned their Citibank cards and demanded an apology from the bank's US headquarters.

The central bank, which has responsibility for overseeing the banking sector, said it was drafting new rules on debt collection. --AFP