Thu, 26 Oct 2000

Gus Dur 'not linked to Bulog scam'

JAKARTA (JP): Despite the presence of strong evidence, Alip Agung Suwondo, President Abdurrahman Wahid's former masseur, continued to deny that the President was linked to the Rp 35 billion (US$4 million) State Logistics Agency (Bulog) scandal.

"I told the police that it had nothing to do with Gus Dur (Abdurrahman's nickname). It was a personal loan given by (former deputy Bulog chief) Sapuan, to me," Suwondo told city police after eight hours of questioning that began at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

"I never claimed to be the President's personal assistant when I asked for the Rp 35 billion loan, and it was not for use in Aceh."

Suwondo, who police also identify as An Peng Sui, made the statements despite an official receipt from the Bulog employees foundation, Yanatera, bearing his signature below the title President's personal assistant.

The receipt has been handed over to the South Jakarta District Court as evidence.

Rp 35 billion were withdrawn from Yanatera by defendant Sapuan, who claimed that he had done so at the behest of the President. The funds were given to Suwondo via four Bank Bukopin checks, issued on Jan. 13 and Jan. 20 this year.

Of the Rp 35 billion, Suwondo gave Rp 15 billion to Suko Sudarso, an official of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Rp 5 billion to businesswoman Siti Farika and Rp 5 billion to Leo Purnomo, allegedly an employee of the Awair airline company whom police have been unable to find.

Awair, formerly called A.W. Air, was jointly founded by Suwondo, Abdurrahman and Rachmat Soebakir.

At a Tuesday hearing of the Bulog trial, legislator Suko Sudarso looked uncomfortable when questioned about the Rp 15 billion check he received.

"That check belonged to Hendri Arioseno, my friend, who refused to deposit the money into his Bank Bali account, since the bank had its own troubles," Suko, an official at the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), told the South Jakarta Court hearing presided over by Judge Lalu Mariyun.

"Hendri gave that check to me on Jan. 24. I deposited it in my Citibank account on Jan. 26, and have long since returned the money to Hendri. I'm not involved in this case," Suko said.

Hendri Arioseno, a land broker, received a Rp 15 billion check from Suwondo on Jan. 22 as payment for 100 hectares of land in Cianjur Selatan, West Java.

Suko looked nervous when chief defense lawyer Muhammad Assegaf asked him how he returned the Rp 15 billion to Hendri.

"I wrote out about 30 to 40 checks to Hendri between January and June," Suko answered.

Assegaf said: "You told the hearing that in the three years you've known Hendri, he often asked you to clear his checks for him in your account. As a friend, didn't you ever advise Hendri, to open his own account?"

Suko said that he eventually helped Hendri open an account at Bank Mandiri in June this year.

Assegaf backtracked and asked him about the name on the Rp 15 billion check.

"The name on that Bank Bukopin check, is yours. Not Hendri's name ... but yours. Who wrote that name?" Assegaf asked.

Suko said: "I did. Initially, there was no name on the check. I filled out my own name."

Assegaf asked whether Suko had only written checks to Hendri, and nobody else. Suko nodded, but added that he had no proof of this.

Assegaf asked Judge Lalu to request prosecutor Nulis Sembiring, to provide the court with the checks Suko claimed he had issued to Hendri. Nulis told the hearing that prosecutors had not confiscated those checks.

Assegaf said it was crucial to find out the names on those checks in order to determine who else might have benefited from that money.

Nulis responded that it was irrelevant to Sapuan's case, since where the money went from Suko, had nothing to do with Sapuan.

Another attraction at the hearing was Central Java-based businesswoman, Siti Farikha, who testified that she received a Rp 5 billion check on March 13 -- one of the four checks Suwondo received from Sapuan -- from Jakarta businessman, Aris Junaidi, for a business venture.

At the Tuesday hearing, Siti, who has family links with the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Muslim organization -- formerly chaired by Abdurrahman -- denied knowing that Aris is brother of Arifin Junaidi, who was an NU official under Abdurrahman. (ylt/jaw)