Wed, 13 Aug 2003

Father says associate arrested for kidnapping

Multa Fidrus, The Jakarta Post, Tangerang

Police reportedly nabbed a businessman on Tuesday for allegedly planning the abduction of eight-year-old Muhamad Hegel Muthahhari from his elementary school in Serpong Tangerang.

The businessman, identified as Sarwoto, was arrested at his office in Wisma Arcadia on Jl. TB. Simatupang, South Jakarta at 3:30 p.m.

"Yes, Sarwoto was just arrested. He is one of my business clients," the boy's father Meirizal Zulkarnaen, 40, told The Jakarta Post.

Meirizal claimed that Sarwoto was among 40 clients who arranged the kidnapping, not the 23 clients as earlier reported.

Meanwhile, Serpong Police chief Comr. Kostbar refused to confirm that the police had arrested Sarwoto.

"I have no comment on that matter," Kostbar told the Post on Tuesday.

However, he said the police were continuing the investigation into the kidnapping, although they had earlier arrested seven suspects in the case.

Two of the seven suspects, identified as Ade and Sofyan, were arrested on Monday evening while the other five suspects, identified as Nurul Lestaluhu and her husband Taher Lastaluhu, Doni Wibisono, Jantra alias Babe and M. Soleh were nabbed on Friday and Saturday.

Separately, one of the seven suspects, Taher Lestaluhu, 50, a debt collector claimed on Tuesday that the kidnapping was his own idea.

"I got angry because I had not been able to collect the money Meirizal owed. So I abducted his son," Taher told reporters in his cell at Serpong Police subprecinct.

He said that the clients ordered him to collect debts amounting Rp 4.5 billion from Meirizal.

Meirizal admitted earlier that his company PT Artha Mulia Ereska owed the debts to 150 creditors and had not paid them by the promised deadline.

"It's company business, why they kidnapped my son," he said.

One of the creditors, Erna, who visited Tangerang Police on Tuesday, admitted that she and other clients ordered Taher to collect the debts from Meirizal.

"Yes, we instructed Taher to collect debt. But we did not order him to kidnap the boy," Erna, who lent Rp 400 million to Meirizal, told reporters.

Erna said that she planned to report Meirizal to the city police soon for fraud.

Meanwhile, Tangerang Police deputy chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Tavip Yulianto said the police would separate the kidnapping case from the business relations between Meirizal and his clients.

"We do not wish to be too hasty in concluding that the clients were involved in the kidnapping. It's separate case," Tavip told reporters.

Hegel was abducted on July 30 while he was playing with his friends in his school yard. The abductors asked his parents to pay Rp 4 billion in ransom.

Police managed to trace the abductors when the parents transferred Rp 10 million to one of the abductors' accounts.

On Friday, police arrested Nurul, the account holder and found Hegel safe in a room with Doni at Horison Hotel in North Jakarta. Taher was arrested on Saturday in Ambon and Jantra and Soleh were arrested in Bekasi.