Wed, 23 Aug 2000

Sapuan spends birthday at initial court hearing

JAKARTA (JP): Former State Logistics Agency (Bulog) deputy chairman Sapuan spent his 56th birthday in a South Jakarta District Court room on Tuesday when he appeared as a defendant in the initial hearing of a Rp35 billion (US$4.1 million) embezzlement case of Bulog employee foundation Yanatera's funds.

"Happy Birthday!" said presiding judge Lalu Mariyun to Sapuan upon reading out the date of birth from the dossiers of the defendant.

Prosecutor Nulis Sembiring told the hearing that the defendant had violated Article 374 of the Indonesian Criminal Code on embezzlement.

"The defendant alone ordered the disbursement of Rp 35 billion from Yanatera. He said he was acting under the orders of President Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur," Nulis told the hearing.

Article 374 carries a maximum punishment of a five-year jail term.

Nulis said he would be presenting the court with at least 36 witnesses, but failed to mention if either President Abdurrahman -- who has been questioned as a witness by the National Police over the scandal -- or former minister of trade and industry Yusuf Kalla would be brought before the court.

Earlier, former city police chief of detectives Sr. Supt. Alex Bambang Riatmodjo said Sapuan was being investigated according to anticorruption Law No. 31/1999.

Article 3 of the 1999 Corruption Law carries a maximum punishment of a life sentence or a minimum sentence of one year in prison.

Sapuan was represented by a 10-member team of lawyers, led by Mohammad Assegaf.

In their defense, Sapuan's lawyers rejected the allegation, saying Sapuan had acted under the orders of the President.

Judge Lalu adjourned the hearing until Aug. 29.

Sapuan met with the President on Jan. 7 this year and confirmed with Gus Dur that the Rp 35 billion was needed for humanitarian aid in Aceh.

"This is one reason why our client (Sapuan) dared to give so much money to Suwondo, who is better known as the President's masseur," one of Sapuan's lawyers, Isnul Tanjung, had earlier said.

Suwondo is still at large, despite repeated statements from the city police that he is still in the capital.

"The Bulog deputy chief did not have the authority to refuse ... according to conditions in Indonesia, if the chief (Gus Dur) ordered it, it has to be carried out," Isnul said.

The Yanatera foundation's statute stipulates that an executive is required to obtain approval from at least one-third of its members for the use of more than Rp 500 million of its funds.

Police have named a total of eight witnesses in the case.

Sapuan was named as a suspect and placed in police custody.

Bulog chief Rizal Ramli then suspended him from his position.

Isnul said that Sapuan had requested that a presidential decree be issued in order for the disbursement to be "carried out responsibly".

"But the President felt it was not necessary, as stated then by Suwondo. The same thing was confirmed by (former Bulog chief) Yusuf Kalla and he too advised that it was best done by the issuance of a presidential decree.

"Suwondo said that Gus Dur felt it was not needed," Isnul said.

"Even the receipt of acceptance of money was signed by Suwondo and not Gus Dur."

On Jan. 13, Sapuan signed his first memorandum to Yanatera chairman Mulyono, stating that Mulyono could disburse up to Rp 10 billion for the purpose of "Aceh humanitarian aid".

The second memorandum, also signed by Sapuan, ordered the disbursement of Rp 25 billion. (ylt)