Sat, 11 Nov 2000

Hunt for fugitive Tommy intensifies

JAKARTA (JP): After asking the help of Interpol to put the name of Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra on their worldwide list of wanted people, the police have widened their search for the nation's most wanted fugitive by combing several additional sites outside of the capital Jakarta.

By Friday, police detectives had searched a number of sites, including some of the country's popular resort islands such as Bali, Batam, Lombok and the Thousand Islands right up to the East Kalimantan-Malaysia border.

But until late on Friday evening, police officers claimed to have come out empty-handed in their search for the youngest son of former president Soeharto.

"The manhunt for Tommy has reached the Thousand Islands (a cluster of islands off the coast of Jakarta) this morning as well as other places in Bekasi and Sukabumi (in West Java)," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf told reporters.

"We realize the public's doubt about our ability to find Tommy, but we have put our maximum effort into locating him."

According to officer Saleh, the Interpol headquarters in Sierra-Leon, France, agreed on Friday to put Tommy on their list of wanted people which will be distributed to all countries all over the world.

Tommy, who was convicted on Sept. 22 of graft in a land swap deal, has ignored calls to surrender. He has been missing ever since President Abdurrahman Wahid rejected his plea for a pardon last week. Tommy was declared a fugitive on Tuesday.

The 1995 land swap deal between the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) and Tommy's company PT Goro Batara Sakti, which caused Rp 76.7 billion in state losses, also involved his business partner, Richardo Gelael.

Both Tommy and Gelael were sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Supreme Court. Gelael, who is also a close friend of Tommy in the sportscar racing game, began serving his sentence last Friday at the Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta.

According to Tommy's defense team, the fugitive has refused to go to jail after supposedly receiving a threat from an unknown person via a telephone call, who vowed to abuse him if he ever went behind bars.

Officer Saleh said the police would guarantee Tommy's security if only the latter would present himself for sentencing.

"The security guarantee is not provided only for Tommy but for other prisoners as well," he added.

In Pamekasan, East Java, President Abdurrahman said he had refused Tommy's request for special treatment during the serving of his imprisonment.

Abdurrahman said Tommy had once asked for a private cell to be built in the Cipinang Penitentiary and to be allowed to bring along eight of his bodyguards to prevent him from being abused.

"No one is above the law. I call on Tommy to surrender so he can be sent to jail. If he is here in the morning and finds the prison is not safe for him, he may move to another prison in the afternoon," Abdurrahman was quoted by Antara as saying at a function commemorating Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)'s 77th anniversary.

In Semarang, House of Representatives (DPR) Chairman Akbar Tandjung has lashed out at accusations that the President has been protecting Tommy.

"I think that is not true. How could Gus Dur protect Tommy? In fact, it is Gus Dur who has ordered the arrest of Tommy," he said on the sidelines of a seminar on Friday.

Akbar, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, said the accusation was aimed at discrediting the President.

Separately, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman insisted that his intelligence officers had checked and found that Tommy had not been in his residence since the verdict was announced last Thursday.

"Moreover, the convict had not received the copy of the presidential decree rejecting his pardon on the same day as the prosecutors' summons," he told journalists at his office.

Tommy's lawyers used the situation as a chance to avoid direct execution of the sentence, arguing that prosecutors could not execute the ruling until the convicted had received a copy.

Separately in the day, Supreme Court Judge Muladi said that no sanctions could be taken against prosecutors should they be proven to have protected a fugitive because such a situation has not yet been stated in the Criminal Code. (bby/jaw/ylt)