Wed, 18 Oct 2000

Suwondo makes first public appearance

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid's personal masseur, Alip Agung Suwondo, a suspect in the multi-billion rupiah State Logistics Agency (Bulog) scandal, made his first public appearance on Tuesday after three nights in police custody.

The appearance of Suwondo at Jakarta Police Headquarters was seemingly without purpose as he struggled to escape from the press and kept his mouth covered with his free hand.

The 43-year-old was also sporting three medicated bandages, respectively on his right temple, left cheek, and neck, in an apparent effort to prevent press photographers from getting a full-face photograph of him.

Thus far, all media have been running the same picture of Suwondo since he was declared a suspect in the disbursement of Rp 35 billion from Bulog's employee foundation, Yanatera.

Suwondo found himself surrounded by the press on Tuesday shortly after undergoing a medical checkup at the city police medical center located at Jakarta Police Headquarters.

Attired in a detainee's uniform, the founder of the Awair airline refused to speak to the waiting reporters.

Instead, he walked very quickly toward the police car, which had taken him earlier to the medical center, all the time covering his mouth with his hand.

His request to get into the car was immediately rejected by the police. One of the officers ordered him to walk instead to the police detention center, located some 200 meters away.

Seemingly unhappy with the order, Suwondo then decided to break into a sprint, forcing the members of the press and the police to work extra hard to follow him. At one point, three reporters and a police detective, who was escorting Suwondo, stumbled in the effort to catch up with the suspect.

Suwondo, also identified by police as An Peng Sui, looked pale.

According to the secretary of the Jakarta Police Medical Center, Supt. Prijatna Sudardja, his team of police doctors still needed one more day to determine Suwondo's physical and mental health.

"We found some disorders in Suwondo's health," Prijatna said but refused to elaborate.

A day earlier, a team of doctors from the National Police stated that Suwondo was mentally fit.

The chief of the Jakarta Police's criminal investigation unit, Sr. Supt. Harry Montolalu, said on Tuesday that the police were still waiting for the final report from the doctors prior to questioning the suspect.

The scandal revolves around the disbursement of the funds in January of this year by the Bulog deputy chief, Sapuan.

Sapuan, who is currently on trial for the disbursement of the funds, has testified that he released the money at the request of Suwondo, who said that he was acting on behalf of President Abdurrahman Wahid who wanted Bulog to participate in a humanitarian aid program for the strife-torn province of Aceh.

Police earlier disclosed that all of the funds initially went to Suwondo, who then distributed Rp 25 billion to other parties for various reasons while keeping the rest for himself.

The first Rp 15 billion portion of the funds went to Suko Sudarso, an official of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), another Rp 5 billion went to businesswoman Siti Farika, who has family links with the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Muslim organization, once chaired by Abdurahman, and the remaining Rp 5 billion went to Leo Purnomo, who police said was an employee of the Awair airline company.

To date, police have named Suko and Farika as witnesses in the case, while Leo is still at large.

Awair, formerly called A.W. Air, was jointly founded by Suwondo. Abdurrahman and Rachmat Soebakir. The latter is the president of the new airline.

The company insisted on Tuesday that Leo was never a part of the airline.

During Sapuan's trial at the South Jakarta District Court on Tuesday, witness Hendri Arioseno, a well-known land broker among tycoons, testified that he received a Rp 15 billion cheque from Suwondo as payment for 100 hectares of land in Cianjur Selatan, West Java.

Hendri told the hearing, presided over by judge Lalu Mariyun, that Suwondo later borrowed Rp 3.6 billion from him to, among other things, purchase a Range Rover jeep, a BMW sports car and a Mercedes New Eyes sedan.

Later in the hearing, he explained that he gave all of the proceeds of the Rp 15 billion cheque to his "close friend" Suko Sudarso to be kept by the latter.

"I trust Suko implicitly," Hendri said, adding that Suko later returned the Rp 15 billion to him in installments.

Teti also gave evidence during the same hearing.

"I just do what my husband says and I don't question him... at that time, I kept the cheque aside (like) a toy," she said.

Teti also said that her husband knew President Aburrahman well as a friend, before he became president, but failed to elaborate further on their relationship.

Judge Lalu adjourned the hearing until next Tuesday. (jaw/ylt)