Samin Tan, chairman of Bumi, one of the world’s largest mining companies, has fallen for one of the world’s oldest tricks in the book, reports the London Times (paywall). A thief compliments your taste in suits while stealing your wallet. In this case, it was Tan’s vanity that was flattered and confidential corporate documents that were snatched.
Last July, Tan got emails from a guy named “Steve” who said he worked for Wikipedia and wanted to write an article about the chairman. Steve asked Tan to click on links to articles about him, which looked like Wikipedia articles. Tan was then redirected to webpages where investigators now believe his laptop was hacked. Other staff accounts may also have been broken into.
The company first became aware there was a problem when documents from Tan’s laptop were sent via email to a Bumi board member from an unnamed “whistleblower,” alleging financial irregularities at Bumi Resources. Bumi Resources is an Indonesian coal mining company 29% owned by Bumi. Documents hacked included private emails and a due diligence report Tan had on Bumi Resources. The company hired a security firm to figure out what had happened. The results of that investigation appear today in a London Times seven-page report (paywall), which details how hackers most likely got documents from Bumi computers.
The news of the hacking comes at an explosive time for the London-listed holding company of Bumi Resources and Berau Coal, of which Bumi owns an 85% stake. Bumi co-founder Nathaniel (“Nat”) Rothschild, a British financier and descendant of the prominent Rothschild family, is fighting for control of Bumi against the Indonesian Bakrie family, one of the company’s largest shareholders.
Rothschild quit the board last October after calling for a massive clean-up of the alleged financial irregularities at Bumi Resources. Aburizal Bakrie has offered to buy the stake in its asset back, but Rothschild insists it’s in shareholders’ interest to fully investigate claims of financial abnormalities. Rothschild has suggested replacing 12 of 14 board members. One of those directors Rothschild proposes replacing is Tan. Shareholders will decide in February. Over the past 12 months, Bumi’s share price has fallen 65% while losses have mounted.