Fri, 24 Nov 2000

Police seize van believed as Tommy's getaway vehicle

JAKARTA (JP): Police seized a Mercedes Benz van on Thursday believed to have driven Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra from his home in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Nov. 3, several hours before authorities declared the youngest son of former president Soeharto a fugitive.

The purple-metallic van bearing license plate number B 306 T was parked in the garage at the residence of Tommy's father-in- law, Bambang Sucahyo Ajie Suryobandoro, in the Police Housing Complex in Ragunan, South Jakarta.

Witnessed by a bevy of journalists, the police, led by Sr. Insp. Tagam Sinaga from the Jakarta Police, performed their administrative duties then drove the van to police headquarters pending further investigation.

During the confiscation process, a group of 10 people standing guard behind the tall fence, attempted to obstruct the press from looking on.

The van was recognized as one of the four cars seen leaving Tommy's home on Jl. Yusuf Adiwinata No. 4, Central Jakarta, at the deadline set by prosecutors for him to surrender himself to begin the 18-month jail term as ruled by the Supreme Court.

According to officer Tagam, the seizure was carried out based on testimony from two of Tommy's aides that the country's most wanted criminal was in the car the day he went missing.

"Tommy's personal aides, Syaiful Anwar and Budi, said the four cars left the house heading to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle," he said.

"Two of the cars returned home while this van and a Mercy jeep with license plate number B 808 HT continued," Sinaga told journalists after the seizure.

As part of the effort to locate Tommy, the officers plan to summon Bambang Sucahyo, the father of Tommy's wife, Ardhia Pramesti Rigita Cahyani, for questioning on Monday over the disappearance of his son-in-law.

The fugitive's wife, known widely as Tata, along with two maids working at Tommy's house in Menteng will also be interrogated on Monday.

Tata was questioned earlier this week together with Tommy's sisters and she stated that she knew nothing of the hiding place of her husband.

Police so far have searched 40 residences, mostly belonging to the family's close associates and Tommy's friends, and seized Tommy's Menteng house and several of his properties in connection with his role in the land swindle.

Separately, former coordinating minister for political and security affairs Gen. (ret.) Wiranto insisted that he would not allow anyone, including the police, to examine his house in the search for Tommy.

"There are rules to raid someone's house", Wiranto said on Thursday.

He also denied rumors that he was hiding Tommy.

"I call the accusations slanderous. All bad things occurring recently have been attributed to me. It's a 'character assassination'," Wiranto said.

A reliable source told The Jakarta Post that President Abdurrahman Wahid recently ordered Attorney General Marzuki Darusman to examine the houses of former vice president Sudharmono and Wiranto for their possible roles in hiding Tommy.

"But Pak Wir told Pak Dharmono to ignore it, saying that it's the President who caused Tommy's disappearance," the source said.

When contacted last night, Marzuki denied the groundless rumor.

"That's untrue. I have not been ordered to examine them," Marzuki said.

Meanwhile, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf said that former president Soeharto could be questioned over the illegal gun possession of his daughter, Siti "Mamiek" Hutami Endang Adiningsih.

"Mamiek said that the gun was a gift from Pak Harto but she failed to show a letter which proved it," Saleh told reporters on Thursday.

Saleh said that if somebody gave a gun to someone, the gun's previous owner should make a letter of explanation and the new owner should immediately request a permit from the police.

Saleh said that even if the gun, a .22 pistol, had been really given by Soeharto to Mamiek, Soeharto should be questioned where he had gotten the gun from and if he had a license.

"If we want to solve this case right, we have to trace it that far," Saleh said.

Mamiek was questioned at police headquarters on Thursday as a suspect for illegal firearms possession. (bby/02/jaw)