Indonesian police have named RIM’s top official as a key suspect for an investigation into how the launch event for the company’s latest smartphone turned violent in Jakarta last month, according to the Jakarta Globe.
RIM Indonesia president director Andrew Cobham has been summoned to speak with police, after fighting erupted amongst the 3,000 people that had queued to buy the new BlackBerry 9790 handset, that was being released in Jakarta for the first time anywhere in the world.
The fate of Canadian Cobham, who is also the secretary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia, remains unclear although he could face a jail sentence of up to nine months if deemed responsible for the incidents. However, at this stage, Cobham has not been arrested, according to a somewhat confusing police statement, which said:
His violation [negligence resulting in injury] only carries a [maximum] nine months in prison so we didn’t arrest him.
The police are assessing whether a change of rules relating to those eligible to buy the new phone, which was available with a a large discount for the first 1,000 customers, was responsible for causing issues, as the Jakarta Globe article explains:
Baharuddin said that Cobham should have anticipated that the event would attract a huge crowd, and he criticized RIM officials for causing confusion by changing the rules during the event.
He said buyers were told they needed a red bracelet from the organizer to buy the phone, but that RIM officials decided to abandon that plan without adequately informing people. As a result, some members of the crowd were outraged when they saw people buying a phone without a bracelet.
Cobham, who is soon moving on from his position, is one of four suspects to be questioned about the events, including the mall’s head of security, the event organizer and a RIM security consultant. The investigation has already promoted one piece of action, after a regional police chief was demoted for “failing to take the necessary steps to control the situation”.
The popularity launch event was a welcomed boost for RIM, particularly as it came during the phased international launch of Apple’s iPhone 4S, but the investigation is threatening to cause significant disruption to the company in Indonesia, were it leads the domestic smartphone market.
Despite the huge popularity of its devices amongst consumers in the country, RIM has courted significant controversy in Indonesia, most recently when it overlooked the country and unveiled plans to build a new production plant in Malaysia.
However, with recent issues in mind, RIM co-CEO Jim Balsilie was recently in Jakarta as the company demonstrated its commitment to Indonesia by holding the global launch event for the new phones in the capital city.
We have contacted RIM for more details of the investigation and will update this story with its response.