Mon, 16 Oct 2000

Suwondo has yet to link Gus Dur to Bulog scandal

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid's former masseur, Alip Agung Suwondo, alias An Peng Sui, has yet to speak of the President's alleged involvement in the Rp 35 billion (US$3.9 million) scam at the State Logistics Agency (Bulog), due to weak mental and physical condition, a police officer said on Sunday.

"He has been saying weird things since his arrest on Saturday at his Cisarua villa in Bogor. We have called a doctor to visit him today (Sunday)," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Saleh Saaf told reporters at a press conference at the City Police Headquarters.

"We have not been able to carry out an intense interrogation, since he doesn't seem to be well. Let the doctor examine him."

Saleh said that Suwondo's ill health did not stop the police from detaining him.

"He's a suspect. He'll receive his medical treatment in police custody," Saleh said.

However, a police source said on Saturday that Suwondo had spoken of receiving Rp 35 billion in cheques from the subordinates of former Bulog deputy chief, Sapuan, who is being tried at the South Jakarta District Court for his alleged involvement in the Bulog scandal.

"He has confessed to receiving the cheques, but has not implicated the name of the President as yet. He needs his rest first," the source said.

"He has admitted that after cashing the cheques, he spent some money on cars, a house and other things, but then eventually became agitated and confused, particularly after news reports which, he said, seemed to corner him."

Police are treating the 43-year-old Suwondo as a "high-risk" suspect, and despite their claims that he is at the City Police detention center, officers at the center told reporters that no new prisoner named Suwondo had been admitted there.

A source has told The Jakarta Post that Suwondo was being interrogated at a police safe house near the Cilandak police subprecinct in South Jakarta.

Even as sources outside the police force claim that Suwondo surrendered himself to the police, Police Mobile Detectives (Resmob) maintained that they arrested him after a week-long observation conducted after receiving information that Suwondo had returned to his villa in Cisarua.

"He never surrendered. We arrested him," Saleh said.

The scandal revolves around the disbursement of Rp 35 billion from the Bulog employee-owned Yanatera foundation this January, allegedly at the behest of the President.

The funds were disbursed by Sapuan and handed over to Suwondo, who reportedly kept Rp 10 billion for himself, and distributed another Rp 5 billion to businesswoman Siti Farika, who has family links with the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Muslim organization and who, like Suwondo's wife Teti Nursetiati, has returned the money back to the police.

Another Rp 15 billion went to a bank account of Suko Sudarso, an official of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), and Rp 5 billion to Leo Purnomo, a staff member at Air Wagon (Awair) air freight service.

So far, only Rp 16.5 billion has been returned to Yanatera.

Sapuan said during initial hearings at the District Court that Gus Dur had personally told him in January that the Rp 35 billion was needed for the purpose of humanitarian aid in riot-torn Aceh.

Separately, House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Akbar Tandjung said on Sunday that he would demand that the police allow the House's special committee to interrogate Suwondo.

"They should be allowed to investigate the case... this is really good progress," Akbar said.

The special committee members, which includes legislators Didiek Suprianto of the PDI Perjuangan faction and Alvin Lie of the Reform Party faction, visited Jakarta Police chief Sr. Supt. Nurfaizi on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Saleh said that interrogation by DPR special committee members depended on police investigators.

"If police investigators are done with Suwondo, the special committee can go ahead. Otherwise, why would police investigators allow it? It is no more in my hands or the hands of Pak Nurfaizi. It's up to police investigators," Saleh said.

Suwondo was arrested at his posh villa in the Tugu village of Cisarua, Bogor, at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Police detectives, headed by Asst. Supt. Tito Karnavian, claim to have raided Suwondo's house, where they found him asleep, Saleh said.

He said his male maidservant, Lukman, who usually did Suwondo's grocery shopping for him, was also present.

"He has been saying really funny things... he said that in his confusion, he had gone on foot from Bogor to the Southern Java Sea, and then to Parangtritis beach near Yogyakarta," Saleh said.

At Parangtritis, Saleh said, Suwondo told police that he had found a huge cave, where he meditated for three days, surviving on food left by the cave's visitors.

"This all sounds unreal... we don't even know whether he had gone abroad or not. We have to wait until he's calmer, to start interrogating him," he said. (ylt)