Thu, 04 Dec 2003

BUN director acquitted

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

In another blow to the country's sluggish drive against corruption, the Jakarta High Court overturned the prison term imposed on former director of the now-defunct Bank Umum National (BUN) by a lower court, in the Rp 6.7 trillion (US$788.2 million) Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support fund (BLBI) misuse.

The appeals court also acquitted Leonard Tanubrata of all corruption charges.

The panel of three judges -- Saman Hadi, Hasan Basri Passe and Hartati -- argued the case against Leonard was civil rather than criminal.

Therefore, the defendant must be exonerated, according to the verdict issued on Oct. 26.

Leonard was earlier sentenced by the Central Jakarta District Court to 10 years in prison for his role in the BLBI misuse during the November 1997 to April 1999 period, when he served as the BUN president director. He remains free after his appeal.

"Prosecutors (who handled Leonard's case) must appeal against the verdict to the Supreme Court. It's a must," Attorney General's Office spokesman Kemas Yahya Rahman said on Wednesday in a response to the High Court's decision.

He said his office had ordered all prosecutors to immediately file appeals against verdicts in corruption cases, where defendants were acquitted by higher courts.

The BUN corruption case had been in the spotlight due to apparent inconsistencies during its prosecution. The case was also marred by the request of prosecutors for the Supreme Court to replace Judge Amiruddin Zakaria, who presided over the trial, for alleged foul play.

However, the most controversial issue surfaced when the district court delivered the verdicts for both Leonard and co- defendant Kaharudin Ongko, the BUN's commissioner.

While Leonard was convicted, the court ruled that Ongko was not guilty of graft or of amassing wealth as charged earlier by prosecutors.

The court argued that as a commissioner, Ongko was not responsible for any decisions taken by the bank's director.

Prosecutors have appealed Ongko's verdict to the Supreme Court.

The prosecutors had earlier sought 16 years in prison for Ongko and 14 years for Leonard. They also demanded that the court order the two defendants to repay state losses of Rp 6.7 trillion.

According to the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), many bank owners had misused a total of Rp 144.5 trillion (US$16.2 billion) in BLBI funds provided by the government.

Unfortunately, courts here have handed down seemingly unfair sentences in the BLBI cases. Judges acquitted several defendants of all charges, while others received lenient sentences, of only several months or a few years in prison, as demanded by prosecutors.

A court sentenced former banker Hendra Rahardja of the now- defunct Bank BHS to life imprisonment and two other executives of the same bank to 20 years in jail. But all the defendants were tried in absentia.

The lengthy and controversial trials of dozens of BLBI misuse cases has had no significant consequences for the state budget. For the most part the courts failed to order defendants to repay their ill-obtained money to the state.