RIM's Indonesia chief could face prosecution over BlackBerry stampede

By Lee Kaelin on

At the end of last month, Research in Motion chose Jakarta, Indonesia for the global launch of its new Blackberry Bold 9790 smartphone. The phone is wildly popular in the country, and thus thousands queued for their chance to be among the first to get their hands on the latest BlackBerry handset at a 50% discount.

Initially the first thousand to arrive were given red wristbands, but as the crowd grew impatient the company said everyone could have a phone. In a tragic turn of events, rumours started to circulate they had run out of phones and people started to lose their patience, resulting in thousands storming the security barriers as they tried to get their hands on the new phone.

The Jakarta Globe reported that approximately 90 people needed treating for a range of conditions, from fractured bones to unconsciousness. The Indonesian police subsequently launched an investigation and it has been confirmed that Andrew Cobham, director of RIM's Indonesia operations has been named as a suspect.

According to the BBC, he is one of four people named as suspects who could face charges of negligence leading to injury. Cobham is yet to be arrested, but has been ordered to remain in the country and it is believed he is required to attend the local police headquarters regularly. If found guilty the maximum penalty is nine months imprisonment. Terry Burki, who was hired by the BlackBerry maker as a security consultant has also been ordered to remain in the country pending further investigations.

The local police stated that RIM should have known the event would attract a large crowd, and placed considerable blame on the Canadian firm for changing the rules of the promotional event at the last minute. RIM was heavily criticized for not informing the entire crowd of the change, which resulted in a stampeding angry mob when people without the red wristband started receiving the phone.

The latest turn of events in Indonesia rounds off what has been an unsettling year for the phone manufacturer. Last week they announced they were writing off $485m in unsold PlayBook inventory, despite two big price cuts to move its reported 800,000 stock of unsold tablets. The company's first two quarters also saw a year-on-year decline of handset sales, although Q3 is expected to fare better due to the launch of several new handsets.

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