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Big advance in debt dealings


Ever since the first sod was turned on the site, the $1.25 billion Chandra Asri petrochemicals plant has been trouble. For 10 years an icon of Indonesia's problems with corruption and cronies, the project was set up jointly by Bambang Trihatmodjo, second son of former President Suharto, and his close friend Prajogo Pangestu, an ethnic Chinese timber tycoon.

Right from the start it has embroiled government ministers, foreign officials of aid agencies and banks, Japanese businessmen and Indonesian politicians in almost continuous controversy.

Its political hot potato status did not end when the plant, now technically bankrupt, landed under the custodianship of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, a government body set up to clean up the mess left by the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Last year, a sweetheart deal to rescue it, signed off by new President Abdurrahman Wahid, prompted a strong anti-corruption campaign that could still lead to the president's dismissal from office.

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