Fri, 11 Feb 2000

Attorney general's office to question former president

JAKARTA (JP): Former president Soeharto has been summoned to the Attorney General's office to appear as a suspect on Monday for questioning over alleged corruption during his 32 years in power.

Officials said the summons was issued as new evidence has been discovered to warrant the resumption of the investigation into the former president.

"Today Soeharto has been summoned to appear as a suspect on Feb. 14," Attorney General's office spokesman Soehandoyo told reporters here on Thursday.

He said that the new evidence pointed to "a misuse of power and authority" in issuing government regulations and presidential decrees to amass funds for foundations linked to Soeharto, his family and associates.

Soehandoyo said that the summons was sent earlier in the day and was signed by head of corruption affairs Chaerul Imam.

He said that Soeharto would be questioned about his foundations and a clove marketing monopoly allocated to his youngest son Hutomo Mandala Putra in the early 1990s.

Soeharto once headed five charitable foundations, the Dharmais, Amal Bakti Muslim Pancasila, Supersemar, Dakab and Dana Sejahtera Mandiri, all of which were incorporated as charities and to which civil servants were required to make donations.

Chaerul and state prosecutors Suryansah and Ferry Silalahi would oversee Monday's questioning.

But it remains questionable whether Soeharto will be able to attend the questioning as his lawyers claim that he is at present physically and mentally unfit.

"Soeharto's doctors have concluded that he could not fulfill the summons," lawyer Juan Felix Tampubolon told The Jakarta Post later on Thursday.

"He is physically and mentally unfit to appear for the questioning based on the conclusions of the medical team," Tampubolon said after a meeting at Soeharto's private residence in Central Jakarta.

Tampubolon said, however, that the lawyers and the medical team would meet again on Friday to make a final decision on Soeharto's ability to report to the Attorney General's office on Monday.

Since Soeharto stepped down from the presidency in May 1998, there has been a public outcry for him to be tried for alleged corruption during his rule.

However, the Attorney General's Office, after months of investigation, initially found no evidence of wrongdoing. The investigation was halted in October during the last week of B.J. Habibie's presidency.

The new Attorney General Marzuki Darusman then announced in December that he was reopening the investigation into alleged corruption by the longtime ruler.

Forbes magazine in June last year listed the wealth of the Soeharto family, whose investments in real estate, banking, oil, toll roads and forestry total some US$4 billion.

Soeharto, who has repeatedly denied allegations that he amassed a fortune during his 32 years in office, was twice hospitalized last year for a stroke and intestinal bleeding. (01/byg)