Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Achmad Ruskandar a new suspect in Bulog

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Achmad Ruskandar, former deputy chief of finance at the State Logistics Agency (Bulog), has been declared a suspect for allegedly misusing some Rp 4.6 billion (US$446,600) in funds belonging to the agency.

Director of investigations at the Attorney General's Office Muchtar Arifin said that Ruskandar had officially been declared a suspect on Wednesday. "He allegedly disbursed funds that exceeded the amount requested by then president B.J. Habibie," Muchtar told the media on Thursday.

"Pak Habibie admitted earlier that he had agreed to the disbursement of Rp 50 billion in nonbudgetary funds, in line with a decision made during a Cabinet meeting in 1999, but Pak Rahardi ordered Ruskandar to disburse Rp 54.6 billion, of which Rp 4.6 billion were used for other purposes," Muchtar said.

Rahardi Ramelan, who has also been declared a suspect in the case, was Bulog chief and minister of industry and trade at the time.

Ruskandar, along with his former superior Rahardi, allegedly disbursed the funds to procure goods in order to stabilize prices, build stores and buy equipment, but there was no proper record detailing how the funds had been used.

Ruskandar was once summoned by the Attorney General's Office as a witness in the Rp 54.6 billion graft case implicating House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung. At the time, Ruskandar made a most damaging revelation by saying that he personally had handed over Rp 40 billion of the funds to Akbar.

Muchtar, however, emphasized that Ruskandar's alleged involvement was definitely different to Akbar's.

Earlier in the day, a former senior Cabinet minister told investigators that he had not recommended any contractor as distributor of the foodstuffs for the poor in 1999 as Akbar -- who is also Golkar Chairman -- had claimed.

Former coordinating minister of people's welfare and poverty alleviation, Haryono Suyono, was testifying in the investigation into the Rp 54.6 billion graft case that has implicated Akbar.

Akbar is in trouble for allegedly siphoning off Rp 40 billion of the nonbudgetary funds from Bulog for the Golkar Party's campaigning activities while he was minister/state secretary under Habibie in 1999.

In previous questioning, Akbar said that Haryono had recommended that the Raudlatul Jannah Islamic Foundation handle the project to provide food for the poor.

Haryono admitted to having signed a memo on Feb. 19, 1999 for a certain project proposal but insisted it was "a polite rejection". He also maintained that he had never heard of the Raudlatul Jannah Foundation nor its chairman, Dadang Sukandar.

"It wasn't a letter of recommendation at all," he told journalists after the two-hour questioning in which investigators asked him 14 questions.

Haryono argued that the authority to appoint a contractor remained with Akbar and with Rahardi as then minister of industry and trade/Bulog chief.

"As a coordinating minister at the time, I was only responsible for coordination among related ministries, without any authority to make decisions or formulate policies," Haryono said.

Haryono denied that he knew about the handing over of ten checks for a total of Rp 40 billion from the agency to Dadang, saying that he was on an overseas trip at the time.