Sat, 09 Dec 2000

Sjahril to face trial soon: Abdurrahman

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid said on Friday that Bank Indonesia Governor Sjahril Sabirin would be brought to the court soon for a trial over his alleged involvement in the Bank Bali scandal.

" Don't worry, Sjahril Sabirin will be brought to the court soon. The attorney general has told me this," Abdurrahman said, without giving a clear time frame.

The President's remarks came after Sjahril's release on Tuesday from the custody of the Attorney General's Office because his maximum detention period had expired.

The release has raised speculation that the President's power over his administration is weakening. Abdurrahman has been under strong attack by a group of hard-liners in the House of Representatives over alleged involvement in financial scandals.

However, Sjahril may face other criminal charges related to banknote counterfeiting.

Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Rizal Ramli, told reporters on Thursday that Sjahril was linked to other criminal cases, including the counterfeiting of bank notes.

Rizal denied on Friday that he had ever made such a statement but he insisted that Sjahril should also take moral responsibility for the counterfeit money case.

Separately, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman confirmed, on Friday, that his office was currently cooperating with several other institutions to investigate the case concerning the counterfeit bank notes.

"The investigation finds that it all leads to the involvement of Bank Indonesia as an institution," Marzuki told journalists.

But he refused to mention any particular suspects.

Sjahril's lawyer Muhammad Assegaf said that his client had no plans as yet to file defamation charges against Rizal for his wild accusation.

"However, there seems to be no coordination between Rizal and the Attorney General," Assegaf told the Jakarta Post.

"After Rizal clarified his initial statements to the press on Friday, the Attorney General came out to endorse Rizal's Thursday statements that there is a strong suspicion in the central bank that my client's leadership was involved with the printing of fake banknotes," he added.

A retired army colonel is currently being put on trial at the Surabaya district court in East Java over a counterfeit money case involving around Rp 4.28 billion.

Sjahril was detained late in June after months of arguments with Abdurrahman, who had demanded that the governor step down in order to clear the way for cleaning up Bank Indonesia, which has been perceived by the public as being a corrupt institution.

It is no secret that the central bank had been used by Soeharto to enrich his family and friends during the 32 years in power.

The Supreme Audit Agency discovered in an investigative audit last year the misuse of Rp 144.5 trillion (US$15 billion) in massive government bank liquidity support funds injected to ailing banks during the height of the financial crisis between 1997 and early 1999.

Sjahril was appointed to the top position of Bank Indonesia for a five-year term in early 1998 by the then authoritarian president Soeharto.

Sjahril has denied any involvement in last year's Bank Bali scandal, which centered on the illegal transfer of some US$80 million from Bank Bali to a private firm linked to senior executives of the Golkar Party.

The government also seems to have a weak case against Sjahril particularly as other key suspects in the bank scandal have been acquitted of all charges by the court.

There has been speculation that the President's true intention to oust Sjahril from the central bank was made to fulfill his wish to install his loyalists at Bank Indonesia, which holds the documents on major flows of funds derived from what is now known as the "Bulogate" scandal which allegedly implicates Abdurrahman.

Sjahril has now returned to office. His first remarks to journalists upon his return was that his top priority was to make internal consolidation after being absent for five months after the recent resignation of senior deputy governor Anwar Nasution and four other deputy governors. Sjahril said that Anwar had betrayed him.

A House special team is currently debating the government- proposed bill on the amendment of the central bank law which would remove legal obstacles to oust Sjahril from Bank Indonesia.

Under the existing central bank law, approved by the House in May 1999, the governor and other members of the board of governors can not be dismissed unless they have been proven to have committed a crime, incapacitated or resign voluntarily.

Under the proposed changes, the House can dismiss a board member if he or she fails to perform or if he or she is inactive for more than three consecutive months. (rei/byg/bby/ylt)