Fri, 19 Mar 1999

Ghalib ignores impending sale of Soehartos' homes

JAKARTA (JP): Attorney General Andi M. Ghalib played down on Wednesday media reports on the planned sales of three luxurious mansions in London owned by relatives of Soeharto, saying it was irrelevant to the government's investigation into the wealth of the former president.

"We are only searching for assets owned by Soeharto," Ghalib said before attending a Cabinet meeting on people's welfare and poverty eradication at the Bina Graha presidential office.

The Independent, a London daily, reported on Tuesday that Soeharto's family members were putting the properties up for sale for a combined total of more than 11 million (US$17.6 million).

The newspaper linked the sales with the Indonesian government's probe into Soeharto's alleged rampant corruption and the British government's refusal to grant visas to some members of the former first family, including his son-in-law Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto.

One of the houses, in Winnington Road, Hampstead Garden, in northern London, is offered for 8 million, 1.5 million lower than market price. Another house, provided for the family servants and friends, is on the market at 1.95 million. The third property, in Putney, reportedly owned by Soeharto's half brother, Probosutedjo, is on sale for 1.4 million.

Ghalib, under fire for his office's sluggish investigation into Soeharto, said he was doubtful about the validity of the report.

"It is a one-sided story. It is not confirmed yet. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reported that he (Soeharto) did not have any wealth there," Ghalib said.

Ghalib announced last month that his office, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "has discovered that Soeharto has no wealth abroad either in the form of bank accounts, deposits, land or houses".

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, Soehandoyo, insisted that the Indonesian Embassy in Britain had failed to find any information on the money reportedly kept in Indonesian banks in London under the names of Soeharto and his family members. Similar investigations were also conducted in 16 countries including Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, France, the U.S. and Belgium.

A scholar and staunch critic of Soeharto, George Junus Aditjondro, said in September that three of Soeharto's children -- Sigit Hardjojudanto, Siti Hardijanti Rukmana and Siti Hediyati Prabowo -- and Probosutedjo, had five houses in London.

George, currently living in Australia, has published a book concerning Soeharto and his children's wealth.

"I stick to the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is an official report," Ghalib insisted.

He said he had asked the ministry to examine the accuracy of the British newspaper's report.

"It is just a newspaper report. It must be checked first," he said.

Separately, Golkar deputy chairman Marzuki Darusman suggested that the present government should not to force itself to continue its probe into Soeharto's alleged illegal wealth, saying that it was beyond its capacity due to the complicated nature of the case.

"There are more important things to do than investigate Soeharto. Let's give the job to the next government," he said. (prb)

Editorial -- Page 4