Tue, 30 May 2000

Sofjan denies travel ban still remains in effect

JAKARTA (JP): Businessman Sofjan Wanandi refuted reports on Monday that he was banned from overseas travel, saying he had received permission to travel from President Abdurrahman Wahid himself.

According to Sofjan, the ban imposed through a finance ministry decree was a "technical problem" which had been cleared up.

Sofjan said he would soon be going to the United States to prepare for the President's visit there.

"I must go to the U.S. for a medical check-up and to prepare Gus Dur's meeting with several congress members," Sofjan said after attending a weekly economics meeting at Bina Graha presidential office.

"The President has given his approval."

Minister of Finance Bambang Sudibyo in Decree No. 142 dated May 15, slapped a six-month travel ban on 125 businesspeople connected with liquidated banks.

Sofjan was blacklisted in his capacity as president commissioner of the liquidated Bank Danahutama.

But Sofjan maintains that the decree had already been discussed in Cabinet on May 17, which decided to ease the travel ban for cooperative bankers.

The Cabinet decided to allow the 125 business people to go abroad as long as they can provide a written guarantee from their lawyers, Sofjan said.

Sofjan has played an increasing role in the government through his capacity as chairman of the National Business Development Council.

He acknowledged on Friday that he still has a debt to the government of about Rp 5 billion, but insisted that he could not fully repay the money because other Danahutama shareholders, notably businessman The Ning King and the Bank BBD Foundation, had not repaid their obligations.

When asked what the President said about the matter, Sofjan replied: "He just laughed, and asked me to pay my debts". (prb/cst)