Thu, 09 Nov 2000

Authorities fail to find Tommy

JAKARTA (JP): In a desperate move to bring former president Soeharto's son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra to jail, police investigators and state prosecutors on Wednesday swept through five houses belonging to Soeharto family members in the prestigious Menteng area, Central Jakarta.

The move, however, only added to the officers' record of failure since Monday.

Head of the South Jakarta Prosecutor's Office Antasari Azhar, along with South Jakarta Police chief Supt. Bambang Widaryatmo and community administrators of the neighborhood, began the search operation by visiting Tommy's residence on Jl. Yusuf Adiwinata at 2 p.m.

Unable to find the convict at his own residence, the search team then looked for Tommy at the residences of his younger sister Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih on Jl. Cendana and Siti Hardijanti Rukmana on Jl. Yusuf Adiwinata. Both houses are only a few meters away from Tommy's.

As they were still unable to find Tommy there, the team members then went to Soeharto's residence, also on Jl. Cendana, before they went to Tommy's elder brother Bambang Trihatmodjo's residence at nearby Jl. Tanjung.

Head of the local community, Dedi Sudarmadi, who was escorting the team, said they had searched for Tommy in all rooms of the houses.

"We even searched for him in the kitchen and in the cupboards," he said.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman confirmed the search.

"Those places had been searched, but the team could not find Tommy there," he told journalists at the Presidential Palace.

He said that President Abdurrahman Wahid had ordered the police to arrest Tommy immediately as the latter had insulted the law by avoiding the execution of his 18-month jail term, which was issued by the Supreme Court last September.

"Arrest Tommy as soon as possible," Marzuki quoted Gus Dur as saying.

The prosecutors had named Tommy a fugitive since Friday night after the deadline for him to surrender expired at noon.

Tommy was sentenced by the Supreme Court to serve 18 months in prison and ordered to repay some Rp 30.7 billion in state losses, plus a Rp 10 million fine.

Tommy and his business associate Ricardo Gelael were found guilty of causing state losses during a 1995 land swap deal between their wholesale firm PT Goro Batara Sakti and the State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

Tommy will be detained at the Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta, along with Ricardo, who has already served six days of his 18-month jail sentence, after both of their appeals for a presidential pardon were rejected by the President on Nov. 2.

Fachmi, the executing prosecutor, who had earlier revealed to the press that Tommy would be arrested at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, clarified that the plan had been canceled.

"I was informed that the arrest was aborted an hour later (at 6 a.m. Wednesday)," he told journalists after attending the hearing of a proposal filed by Tommy for a review of the Supreme Court's verdict at the South Jakarta District Court.

In a later development, Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Mulyono Sulaiman said on Wednesday that after searching the residences of Tommy's family members and combing several areas in Cikampek, Sentul, and Gadog in Puncak, West Java, police remained at a loss as to where Tommy was hiding.

"Tommy, surrender yourself. It's the best route you could take... this way we could escort you for the execution of the (Supreme Court) verdict," Mulyono told reporters in a press conference at the Jakarta Police Headquarters on Wednesday night.

Wednesday's conference was also attended by National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf and Jakarta Deputy Police Chief Brig. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara.

While Saleh told reporters that a nationwide police manhunt to track down and arrest Tommy was ongoing, Mulyono said that his cellphone number was open 24 hours a day to the public for "any information on Tommy's whereabouts".

Meanwhile, Makbul told reporters that he had been negotiating with Tommy's family members and lawyers from Tuesday night until dawn on Wednesday.

"I tried to explain to them that it was best for him to give himself up. His family members say they are willing to help but that they themselves do not know where Tommy is," Makbul told reporters.

Surakarta Police chief Sr. Supt. Aris Sampoerno believed that currently Tommy is in one of five hideouts in the region of Karanganyar regency and the capital of Solo.

"Those places are now under our intense surveillance," he told journalists in Semarang.

Aris said the five places include the Soeharto's family residence in Kalitan, the house of Tommy's wife in Banjarsari, a resthouse in Tawangmangu belonging to his sister Hardijanti, a hotel in Colomadu and a place in Mangadeg village.

A member of Tommy's defense team told reporters on Wednesday that he plans to resign if his client remains at large over the next two days.

"I will resign if Tommy refuses to surrender within 48 hours from today," the lawyer said, who asked not to be named.

Earlier in the day, the South Jakarta District Court accepted the appeal for a review of the Supreme Court's verdict during a hearing and will hand the proposal to the Supreme Court within the next three days.

Presiding judge Sudarto said the three-member panel of judges found that the new evidence brought by Tommy's defense team was sufficient. (45/har/ylt/jaw/bby)