Tue, 08 Feb 2000

Forest team to probe corruption

JAKARTA (JP): The ministry of Forestry and Plantation together with the Attorney General's Office is establishing a team to probe suspected corruption in the forestry sector which include a misuse of funds by concessionaires owned by former President Soeharto's family and cronies.

The ministry's secretary-general, Suripto, said a preliminary investigation by his office had unveiled suspected irregularities in the handling of reforestation funds, the granting of 51 forest concession rights and land exchanges (ruislag) between 1996 and 1999.

"All the cases shows that there were interventions coming from the executive branch, whether they were from the president or the state secretary's office," Suripto said, after presenting his findings to Attorney General Marzuki Darusman.

Suripto also alleged that four concessionaires had misappropriated some Rp 784 billion (US$104 million).

He identified the four concession holders as being from former president Soeharto's inner circle -- daughter Siti Hardijanti Rukmana, golf buddy Bob Hasan, half brother Probosutedjo and businessman Ibrahim Risjad.

Pending a final investigation, as many as 45 concession rights could be frozen.

Suripto, a former military intelligence officer, has vowed to combat corruption in the ministry despite his controversial appointment to the post two months ago, which drew protests from ministry employees. (01)