Tue, 22 Aug 2000

No blanket travel ban for bankers: Attorney General

JAKARTA (JP): Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said on Monday that the planned travel ban would be imposed only on a limited number of bankers.

Marzuki said that bankers who were suspected of having committed a crime, particularly the destruction of evidence, would be prohibited from travel abroad.

"We will start discussions of the travel ban policy this afternoon ... But what is clear is that there will be no massive travel ban," he told reporters following an internal meeting.

"The travel ban will only be implemented when it is deemed necessary," he added.

He expressed confidence that the bankers would not leave the country during the impending investigation, pointing out that they could have left when the case broke earlier this year.

Marzuki's comments contradicted earlier statements by the government, raising speculation that the government was easing pressure against bankers alleged to have abused government liquidity support funds.

Both Marzuki and Finance Minister Bambang Sudibyo told reporters last week following a meeting with Head of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) Satrio B. Judono, that travel bans would be immediately imposed against the owners and management of 42 commercial banks to facilitate an investigation by the Attorney General's Office.

The 42 banks were among 48 banks that received some Rp 144.5 trillion (US$17.41 billion) in government liquidity support between 1998 and 1999 to bailout the banks amid major runs.

But BPK said in its recent audit report that more than Rp 138 trillion of the emergency loans had been used in violation of banking regulations. The loans were supposed to be used to reimburse depositors, but the bankers instead used the money to lend to affiliated businesses, for currency speculation or repaying loans of subsidiary companies.

The travel bans were supposed to have been implemented last week.

Separately, Finance Minister Bambang Sudibyo said his office had sent the list of bankers that should be banned from traveling out of the country to the Attorney General's Office.

Bambang said that it was now up to the attorney general to implement the travel ban.

"Please ask the attorney general because he's the one who has the authority to impose the travel ban," Bambang said.

"Because the case involves the crime of destroying evidence, the authority to impose the travel ban is in the hands of the attorney general," he added.

Bambang declined to disclose the names or the number of bankers included on the travel ban list.

He said that his office received the names of bankers that should be banned from traveling from BPK on August 15, and after studying the list, he sent it to the Attorney General's Office the next day.

Last week, Marzuki said his office would investigate the owners and management of 10 closed banks because there was sufficient supporting data.

The banks include Bank BDNI, Bank Umum Nasional, Bank Utama (Pesona), Bank Pelita, Bank Modern, Bank Istimarat, Bank Servitia, Bank Centris, Bank Deka and Bank Aspac.

Marzuki also said at the time that some bankers had destroyed evidence in an attempt to get off the hook. (rei/bby)