Tue, 26 Sep 2000

Attorney General's Office seizes choppers from Gatari

JAKARTA (JP): Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said on Monday his office would seize helicopters belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as evidence in a Rp 23.3 billion fraud case involving the misuse of reforestation funds and government property.

"The prosecutors plan to seize on Wednesday the helicopters and other evidence related to a government project involving aircraft rental company PT Gatari Air Service," he said at his office.

A prosecutor, who requested anonymity, said the investigators would seize eight helicopters, five of which currently are located at the Atang Sanjaya Air Force Base in Bogor, some 60 kilometers south of here. The remaining three helicopters are at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta.

The case is one of a number of corruption cases reported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, formerly called the ministry of forestry and plantations, as part of its efforts to recover massive amounts of misused reforestation funds, and to eradicate corruption in the ministry.

The Attorney General's Office began investigating the case last May and named two suspects: Sudjono Suryo, the former secretary-general of the ministry of forestry and plantations, and the president director of PT Gatari, Kabul Riswanto.

PT Gatari was established in 1983 as PT Gatari Hutama Air Service, and was owned by former president Soeharto's youngest son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra. The company was granted a five- year contract in 1992 to maintain the ministry's 12 helicopters and a small aircraft, all produced by state aircraft manufacturer PT Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara.

The contract allowed Gatari to lease the helicopters to outside companies with the ministry's consent.

The ministry claims it was charged Rp 7.2 billion by Gatari for using its own helicopters during the period of the contract.

Gatari also was accused of marking up the expenses for repairs and spare parts, costing the ministry Rp 2.8 billion. The ministry paid these expenses with funds which had been earmarked for reforestation.

Reforestation funds are collected by the government from logging companies, who must pay a percentage for every log they cut in their concession areas. The funds are meant to ensure sustainable forest management.

The ministry also claims PT Gatari has failed to handover four of the 12 state-owned helicopters, despite a ministry-set deadline of February 1999 for their return.

The spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, Yushar Yahya, said prosecutors had yet to decide whether to obtain a permit from a district court before seizing the helicopters. (bby)