Mon, 12 Jun 2000

Marzuki to seek info on Soeharto from 'Time'

YOGYAKARTA (JP): The Attorney General's Office intends to seek firsthand information from Time magazine regarding former President Soeharto's assets and properties abroad, to be used as part of its investigation of the former ruler.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman told reporters here on Saturday that his office will contact Time this week.

"We don't have the official data of the exact value of the assets yet. But we've already started to collect several pieces of information from foreign parties to find out about the description of the assets," he said on the sidelines of a seminar at Gadjah Mada University's Magister Management Program.

Time reported in its May 24, 1999, edition that Soeharto and his family had amassed a fortune of around $15 billion, including $9 billion said to be stashed in an Austrian bank account.

Soeharto then filed a defamation suit. But the Central Jakarta District Court last week threw out the case.

The Attorney General's Office has named Soeharto as a suspect and he is being investigated for abuse of power by issuing regulations and decrees to amass wealth through his foundations while in power.

Soeharto's house-arrest status was extended last week.

Without elaborating, Marzuki claimed on Saturday that Soeharto's properties were located, at least, in the United States, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Marzuki also said that his office has confiscated documents relating to activities of Soeharto's foundations, although the foundations' assets have yet to be seized.

"We just don't want to interrupt the foundations' daily activities as there are certain people who still receive charity from the foundations," he said.

Marzuki also promised that his office would finish Soeharto's case by August.

"But it doesn't have anything to do with the annual session of the People's Consultative Assembly, which will be conducted in August," he added.

Separately on Saturday, former minister of justice Muladi reminisced about his time as a Cabinet minister under Soeharto.

Muladi admitted that he only met Soeharto once during his brief tenure under him.

"It's not easy for people to meet him, even a minister," said Muladi after speaking at a law seminar in Medan, North Sumatra.

Muladi served as minister of justice in Soeharto's last Cabinet which survived only 70 days before Soeharto stepped down in May 1998.

Serving under Soeharto's successor, B.J. Habibie, Muladi, as minister of justice, was assigned to lead a failed government investigation team to Austria and Switzerland in June last year to seek Soeharto's assets.

Speaking of his one and only private meeting with Soeharto, Muladi said that it was brief. He reported to the then president of the kidnapping of student activists and plans to abolish the subversion law.

"During such a meeting with him, we can't take too much of his time. He has the habit of looking at his watch after offering us a drink," he said.

That meant, according to Muladi, that it was time for the guest to seek permission to leave the room immediately.

"That also went for Cabinet meetings. After reading an opening speech and asking for comments from several ministers, like the economy or finance minister, he would leave the room immediately," he said. (44/09)