Suharto’s family “must return looted wealth”

Deal with military reward for outrageous conduct

After having systematically looted the Indonesian economy for a generation, ex-President Suharto and his family must now be forced to account to the people of Indonesia for their illgotten gains, estimated at over US$ 30 billion. So says the Berlin-based anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International.

"The suggestion reported by the BBC (21 May) that a deal has been struck between the military and the disgraced outgoing president to enable his family to keep the wealth they have looted is outrageous, and must be rejected by all concerned, including the international community," said TI Chairman, Dr Peter Eigen. "Any such agreement brokered by the military cannot be regarded as binding on a subsequent democrati-cally-elected government," he continued.

"Under the legal system manipulated by the former president much of the wealth may have been acquired through rampant nepotism and not technically criminal acts, but this should not stand in the way of a concerted effort to return the assets of a family rated by Forbes magazine as among the world's 12 richest, to the impoverished and exploited people of Indonesia", he said.

To stand by and allow such outrageous conduct to be rewarded in this way runs counter to the world-wide campaign for just and honest government by rewarding the looters at the expense of the poor, he continued. It is also incomprehensible why the interna tional community should be expected to shore up the Indonesian economy while the thieves who have plundered it keep their booty.

"We have an increasing number of leaders who have behaved in this way: Zaire's Mobutu, Pakistan's Bhutto, the Philippines' Marcos, Haiti's Duvalier and now Indonesia's Suharto joins a growing list of mega-rich leaders from impoverished countries, much of whose wealth is stashed away in OECD countries who claim they can do little to help recover these assets unless they are related to illicit drugs trafficking," Dr Eigen observed.

"This is a disturbing trend. Unless and until the international community is prepared to treat gross political corruption as being on a par with drugs trafficking, the countries of the North will continue to wax fat on the invested wealth plundered from the world's poor," he concluded.

Note for editors:

The Suharto family empire

Ex-President Suharto and his family have homes in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Hawaii as well as a multi-million dollar mansion outside Los Angeles and a ski ranch in the New Zealand Alps. The value of their treasure in Indonesia may have declined with the collapse of the rupiah in recent months, but much of it is believed to be invested abroad. Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo Mandala Putra (known as "Tommy") boasted about this last autumn when one of his banks was closed. He did so at a press conference at which he arrived in a Rolls Royce. Recently the reviled "Tutut", daughter Siti Hardijanti Rukmana, chartered a plane for a shopping trip to the USA at a cost of US$ 100,000. Much of the wealth comes from franchises and monopolies granted the children by their indulgent father, funded through soft loans from banks whose heads have been appointed by the ex-President. Suharto has defended his family's vast business empires as being good for the country, but there is little evidence that any of this has trickled down. Rather, much of the country has been impoverished and excluded from the economic advances of the past 30 years.

Sources include "Daily Telegraph" of 16 May 1998

No further investigation of Marcos fortunes
On 14 May the International Herald Tribune reported that the incoming president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada (who had been backed in his election bid by Imelda Marcos), announced that he would not be renewing the mandate of the Presidential Commission on Good Governance set up to recover a suspected US$ 1.5 billion stolen by Ferdinand Marcos. Mrs Marcos was reportedly "jubilant".

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Country / Territory - Indonesia   
Region - Asia Pacific   
Topic - Accountability   |   Defence and security   |   Politics and government   
Tags - President Suharto   |   Siti Hardijanti Rukmana   |   Indonesia president   |   Suharto family   

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