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Ivermectin, public officials, and alleged political proximity surrounding it

Tempo - July 23, 2021

Caesar Akbar, Budiarti Utami, Aji Nugroho, Jakarta – Ivermectin continues to be a hot topic of discussion after the antiparasitic drug – which has been excluded by India from its list of coronavirus treatment – was promoted by some notable individuals in Indonesia as a drug to treat Covid-19 patients.

The story of ivermectin has now entered a new chapter after the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) revealed their findings related to the alleged political proximity between one of the drug's producers PT Harsen Laboratories, Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, and PDIP politician Ribka Tjiptaning.

ICW political corruption researcher, Egi Primayogha, said this allegedly shows attempts to profit from the pandemic through political networking.

"Picture a company trying to gain profit and they establish networks with many sectors, including politicians and public officials," said Primayogha in a discussion held virtually on July 22.

Prior to the ICW research, Tempo Magazine revealed similar lobbying attempts allegedly acted out by PT Harsen to help approve the antiparasitic drug as a cure for Covid-19.

The findings are summarized as follows:

1. BPOM blocks PT Harsen from distributing the drug

BPOM blocked the drug producer from continuing the distribution of the antiparasitic drug earlier this month, which was first known from the statement of Riyo Kristian Utomo, who was said to be the director of PT Harsen.

He said that at the time, the BPOM had blocked his company from distributing the drug. Utomo claimed the blockage was done on Tuesday and lasted until Thursday, July 1. However, Image Dynamics recently denied Utomo's membership as a PT Harsen employee.

"For days they checked every invoice in the factory. They seem to not want the drug to be used against Covid-19," Riyo Kristian Utomo stated.

The BPOM chairperson Penny Lukito found that the company had violated production processes and committed a number of other violations. Not long after, PT Harsen Laboratories denied ever producing an official statement regarding the BPOM blockading its distribution and did not acknowledge Riyo Kristianto Utomo as one of its employees.

2. The story of PT Harsen approaching Defense Minister Prabowo

Tempo Magazine's July 3 edition revealed PT Harsen allegedly attempted to lobby a number of public officials to help pass the antiparasitic drug as a Covid-19 therapeutic drug. In early 2021, the company had approached the Defense Ministry through. The company's VP Sofia Koswara in an online discussion on June 28, 2021, claimed they met with Prabowo Subianto's personal doctor and special staffer Benyamin Paulus Octavianus.

A member of the Ivermectin clinical trial team member, Budhi Antariksa, was also present during the same online discussion and claimed to have met with the Defense Minister and hoped that the drug would help protect healthcare workers and National Armed Forces personnel against Covid-19. "He thinks that Ivermectin can be used for prevention," said Antariksa, as reported byTempo Magazine.

Moreover, Antariksa said the meeting was facilitated by his colleague and pulmonologist, Benyamin. The meeting continued in a discussion with officials in the Defense Directorate General's Health Directory on the use of the drug.

Two people in Prabowo Subianto's circle said the Defense Ministry obtained thousands of Ivermax from PT Harsen. Benyamin claimed the discussion regarding Ivermectin only took place within the Defense Ministry's Directorate General of Health and denied that Prabowo Subianto had ever received funding from Ivermectin.

3. ICW suspects political proximity between PT Harsen, Moeldoko, and HKTI

The anti-graft watchdog suspects a link between Sofia Koswara from PT Harsen and Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko. Even though Sofia's name is not listed in the company's official records, ICW believes she played a central role in building relations for the company.

According to ICW researcher Egi Primayogha, Sofia is linked with the Front Line Covid-19 Clinical Care (FLCCC) as the chairperson. Another member of the FLCCC is Budhi Antariksa, the Ivermectin clinical trial team and member of the presidential doctor team.

Sofia Koswara is also listed as the director and owner of Noorpay Perkasa shares, which ICW said is mostly owned by Joanina Rachma, daughter of Presidential Staff Moeldoko.

"Joanina is also a special or expert staffer for the Presidential Office (KSP)," Egi revealed.

Rachma's father, Egi said, is believed to be connected with Sofia Koswara in a partnership between Noorpay and the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI) on rice exports. Moeldoko is also the chairperson of HKTI.

However, Moeldoko denies the claims made by ICW: "In relation to my daughter and HKTI, that is a dangerous allegation as there are zero connections." Moeldoko also denied HKTI had ever partnered with PT Noorpay.

4. ICW highlights the link between PT Harsen and Ribka Tjiptaning

The Indonesia Corruption Watch probed the relationship between PT Harsen and PDIP politician Ribka Tjiptaning and linked it to the earlier statement by Riyo Kristian Utomo who spoke as PT Harsen's marketing director.

"Why did PT Harsen even bother to clarify that Riyo is not part of them? As it turns out Riyo is the son of Ribka Tjiptaning, a PDIP politician and House of Representatives (DPR) legislator," the ICW member revealed.

They also believe PT Harsen once donated staple foods and medical equipment to one of PDIP's organizations, Baguna, which is led by Ribka. This was revealed from an amateur video ICW obtained.

"Surely this begs the question of Ribka's role in the Ivermectin issue and how far is PDIP involved in this," said the ICW researcher.

In response, Ribka did not acknowledge ever knowing PT Harsen but said her son might. Ribka also acknowledged that Baguna once accepted donations from the company through her son last year in the form of face shields and hand sanitizers.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1486424/ivermectin-public-officials-and-alleged-political-proximity-surrounding-i