Tue, 21 Nov 2000

Family members questioned over Tommy's absence

JAKARTA (JP): The wife and sister of Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra were grilled for about 10 hours on Monday at the National Police Headquarters over the disappearance of the youngest son of former president Soeharto.

Monday's probe was the first time for members of the former president's family to be questioned since Tommy went missing early this month after he was sentenced by the Supreme Court to serve 18-month's imprisonment in Cipinang Penitentiary, East Jakarta, over a land scam.

Accompanied by the family's lawyer, Juan Felix Tampubolon, Tommy's wife, Ardhi Pramesti Rigita Cahyani, better known as Tata, told dozens of journalists after the questioning that she still had no idea of the whereabouts of her husband.

She said that Tommy actually wanted to surrender to the police but finally decided to go into hiding due to a death threat he received.

"Actually, my husband really respects the law, but he's very concerned for his safety. That's why he is acting like this," Tata said in tears.

She did not say who had threatened her husband.

The mother of two children, who still looked fresh even after hours of questioning, said she also once received a death threat via phone from an unidentified person.

While journalists were busy with Tata, Tommy's sister Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih, who also had been questioned, used the moment to go to her car unobserved.

According to Director of General Crime at the National Police Headquarters, Brig. Gen. Alex Bambang Riatmodjo, Hutami -- also known as Mamiek -- told interrogators that Tommy had contacted her several times since his disappearance.

"Three days ago (on Friday) Tommy called Mamiek to ask her if his son was alight," Alex told reporters.

Juan confirmed Mamiek's disclosure but said that she did not know the whereabouts of her brother.

"Pak Tommy has called Ibu Mamiek two or three times (since he disappeared) to tell her that he was okay," Juan said, adding that Tommy had not called Tata since his disappearance.

According to Juan, other members of the former first family, including sister Siti Hardijanti Rukmana, or Tutut, and brother Bambang Trihatmodjo, were scheduled to be questioned at police headquarters next week.

Officer Alex said that Mamiek was scheduled to be questioned again at police headquarters on Thursday over illegal firearms possession following the seizure of 108 guns from Soeharto and his family in September. The police said that the permits for the firearms had already expired.

The police announced on Monday its plan to question Chief of the South Jakarta Prosecutor's Office, Antasari Azhar, as a witness following the disappearance of Tommy, already dubbed the country's most wanted fugitive.

"The police will first finish questioning Tommy's wife and his four siblings. Then, we'll get to Antasari ... he must be questioned as a witness," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf told The Jakarta Post.

"I am not saying there is, but there could have been involvement of prosecutors in the disappearance of Tommy. We won't know anything until we check all aspects."

Separately, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, Azhar's superior, said such a summons is only a follow-up from the prosecutors' complaint to the police of moves taken by several people, including Tommy's lawyers and family, which indicated attempts to help the fugitive escape detention.

"We have worked closely with the police in arresting Tommy. I think this questioning is only to cross-check the testimonies of other parties," he told journalists.

Meanwhile, Azhar voiced his readiness to be questioned by the police over the circumstances of Tommy's disappearance.

"I will come if it is considered necessary by the police," he told journalists at his office, saying that he has not received any summons.

"I think there is nothing unusual in the questioning, it's likely that the police only need to know our detailed moves before Tommy was declared a fugitive," Antasari added.

Tommy went missing on Nov. 3, a day after President Abdurrahman Wahid refused to grant him a pardon.

Currently the prosecutors are focusing on executing Tommy's obligation to pay a part of the Rp 76.7 billion state loss in the 1995 land exchange deal between the latter's wholesaler PT Goro Batara Sakti and the State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

Prosecutors have seized four of Tommy's private assets, including his residence in Menteng, Central Jakarta and three plots of land in Bogor and Serang, with estimated values of Rp 30.6 billion, the sum which should be paid by the fugitive. (jaw/bby/ylt/bkm)