Fri, 24 Nov 2000

Pande acquitted of all charges in Bank Bali scam

JAKARTA (JP): The South Jakarta District Court acquitted on Thursday Pande Nasorahona Lubis, who had been charged with graft in connection with the Rp 546 billion (US$58 million) Bank Bali scandal.

"None of the legal arguments in the prosecutors' indictment proved the defendant violated the law.

"Therefore, the defendant must be freed from all charges and his dignity restored.

"The decision to process the disbursement of the funds to Bank Bali was made by IBRA; it was not Pande's personal decision," Presiding judge I.D.G. Putra Yadnya said.

As soon as the hearing ended, Pande made a quick exit from the courtroom to avoid the media.

Earlier, chief prosecutor Tarwo Hadi Sadjuri asked the court to sentence Pande, a former deputy chairman of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), to four years in prison for his role in the Bank Bali scandal.

Tarwo said Pande should be held responsible for the disbursement of Rp 904 billion of IBRA's funds to Bank Bali, which was a violation of banking procedures.

Tarwo accused Pande of violating the 1971 law on corruption, specifically Article 1 on enriching oneself at the expense of the state. He also accused the defendant of having conspired with others to commit a crime.

Pande, 56, a career banker, has been viewed by many people as the person most responsible for the disbursement of IBRA's funds to Bank Bali.

The prosecutors argued that Bank Indonesia and the Ministry of Finance had already ruled that the loans to Bank Bali were not covered by the government's guarantee scheme.

In reference to an April 22, 1999 letter from then minister of finance Bambang Subianto ordering the disbursement of IBRA's funds to several banks, Yadnya said it was not necessary to verify the solvency of BDNI, one of the recipients of the agency's money.

The disbursed money was for a loan Bank BDNI owed to Bank Bali but was unable to repay at the time it was taken over by IBRA, a government agency. It later became apparent the Rp 546 billion had ended up in the hands of PT Era Giat Prima (EGP) as a "commission" for helping secure the repayment of the loan.

The case became a cause celebre when it was revealed that EGP was owned by people closely connected with a small group in the Golkar Party responsible for the reelection campaign of then president B.J. Habibie, who lost his bid to remain in power in October 1999.

One of the owners of EGP, Djoko S. Tjandra, who also had been implicated in the Bank Bali scandal, was acquitted of all charges by the same district court in August.

Several other bankers and politicians also have been investigated, and the government has said it plans to bring suspended central bank governor Sjahril Sabirin to trial.

When questioned by The Jakarta Post following Thursday's hearing, Tarwo declined to identify any other suspects in the case.

He did, however, hint that among those being questioned about the case included Sjahril, former Bank Bali president Rudy Ramli, businessman Setya Novanto, former state minister of investment and state enterprises development Tanri Abeng and the former chief of the Supreme Advisory Council, A.A. Baramuli.

Tarwo said he would appeal Thursday's decision to the Supreme Court within two weeks, adding that the panel of judges had misinterpreted the indictment against the defendant.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said his office would file an appeal with the Supreme Court for a review into the district court's verdict.

"We'll first study the verdict before we file an appeal for a review into the court's ruling, similar to what we did with the court's verdict which acquitted Djoko S. Tjandra.

"We'll also carry out an internal examination of the indictment," Marzuki told journalists at his office.

Marzuki said that his office would not change the indictment on Sjahril Sabirin as each charge was separate and distinct although they were all suspects in the Bank Bali scandal. (01/bby)