Wed, 21 Nov 2001

Tiarma Siboro The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Former deputy chief of finance at the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) Achmad Ruskandar revealed the most damaging evidence yet against House Speaker Akbar Tandjung on Tuesday, saying that he personally handed over checks worth Rp 40 billion (US$3.9 million) to then-State Secretary/Cabinet Secretary Akbar in 1999.

Achmad's claim, however, contradicts earlier statements by Akbar.

Briefing the press after being grilled for almost five hours by prosecutors at the Attorney General's Office (AGO), Achmad said he personally handed over the checks to Akbar as instructed by his superior, former Bulog chairman Rahardi Ramelan.

"I personally handed over Rp 40 billion of the Bulog's non- budgetary funds directly to Akbar Tandjung in his capacity as State Secretary/Cabinet Secretary. I did it because my superior Rahardi Ramelan asked me to do so," Achmad said.

"I don't know the Raudlatul Jannah Foundation or its chairman Dadang Sukandar," he asserted, referring to Akbar's earlier claim that he had given the money to Dadang's foundation.

Achmad was questioned as a witness in the Rp 56 billion graft case, involving Rahardi.

Rahardi, the prime suspect in the Rp 54.6 billion scandal, said earlier that Akbar took Rp 40 billion of the amount and former military commander Gen. (ret) Wiranto received Rp 10 billion.

According to Rahardi, Akbar asked for Rp 40 billion from Bulog, but was told that the agency did not have sufficient cash to disperse the Rp 40 billion all at once. Bulog and Akbar later agreed to transfer the sum in two stages.

The first payment was made in April 1999 totaling Rp 20 billion in the form of two checks with a nominal value of Rp 10 billion each. The second payment was made in September 1999, with Akbar allegedly asking Rahardi to issue four checks for Rp 2 billion each and three checks for Rp 4 billion each.

Supporting Rahardi's statement, Achmad said he gave Akbar Rp 20 billion on Mar. 2, 1999, and another Rp 20 billion on Apr. 20, 1999, both at Akbar's office.

"The funds were actually to be used to purchase basic commodities for people most affected by the economic crisis," Achmad said.

Achmad's statement clearly contradicted Akbar's earlier statement that he was merely witnessing the handing over of the checks worth Rp 40 billion from Achmad to Dadang and that he never actually had the Bulog funds or checks in his possession.

The Raudlatul Jannah Foundation Chairman Dadang Sukandar said earlier that the Bulog funds were transferred to Winfried Simatupang, who was responsible for the distribution of food aid packages as part of the government-sponsored social safety net program.

Winfried told prosecutors earlier that the money was spent on food packages that were distributed in a number of provinces.

Many, however, believed that the money was used to help Golkar's campaign activities as well as to fund the operations of militias in East Timor.

Meanwhile, the AGO planned to again question Akbar on Thursday in connection with the alleged misuse of the funds.

The AGO had also summoned former president B.J. Habibie, who is a key witness in the investigation, for questioning on Wednesday.

Habibie, however, is reportedly not to come to the AGO on Wednesday as he is participating in a minor Muslim haj pilgrimage in Mecca.