Sat, 13 Mar 1999

Tommy hit with travel ban for land scam

JAKARTA (JP): Businessman Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the youngest son of former president Soeharto, was barred from traveling outside of the city on Friday.

Announced by Attorney General Andi M. Ghalib, the city arrest is one of the first relatively stern actions taken by President B.J. Habibie's administration against Soeharto family members for alleged misdeeds.

Ghalib was quoted by Antara as saying the restriction was applied to Tommy as a suspect in a Rp 52.5 billion land scam.

A similar travel restriction was previously imposed on two other suspects in the scam, he said.

Former chief of the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) Beddu Amang and senior executive of wholesaler PT Goro Batara Sakti, Ricardo Gelael, were prohibited from leaving the city starting last Monday.

"If the two other suspects have been barred from leaving the town, why not Tommy?" Ghalib said.

Separately, head of the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office Syahmardan Lubis, who received dossiers on the case on Friday, said Tommy objected to the restriction.

His objection and a request for the city arrest's cancellation were stated in his dossier, Lubis said, adding suspects' dossiers were compiled in separate documents.

Lubis argued the measure was only intended to facilitate the procedures for the trial, expected to be held next week.

"So, if the suspects want to leave Jakarta, they can just ask permission from the Jakarta High Court," he said.

Accompanied by his lawyer H.M. Dault, Tommy visited Ghalib's office on Friday to meet a summons for presentation of his dossier to Lubis, Antara reported.

Ghalib said the ban on Tommy was also meant to show his office's serious attention and effort in investigating the alleged scam, including no discrimination against the individual suspects.

Separately, Attorney General's Office spokesman Soehandoyo told reporters the city arrest against Tommy was in effect for 20 days. He gave no other details.

Tommy, Beddu and Ricardo will be tried in South Jakarta Court for alleged roles in the sale of a property belonging to Bulog in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta.

The property was bought by Goro, the giant wholesaler in which Tommy also held shares.

Beddu headed Bulog under Soeharto's regime for several years. Ricardo was widely known as a close friend of Tommy.

Under the deal struck between Goro and the agency, Bulog was to receive a 63-hectare plot in Marunda, North Jakarta, worth an estimated Rp 52.5 billion, in exchange for the Kelapa Gading site.

However, Bulog received only eight hectares and paid Rp 32.5 billion for the land despite a contract obliging Goro to pick up the bill.

Bulog also guaranteed a loan of Rp 20 billion which Goro received from Bank Bukopin to purchase the Marunda site.

Goro Batara Sakti formerly operated wholesalers in Kelapa Gading and Jl. Pasar Minggu in South Jakarta. The Pasar Minggu outlet was badly damaged by fire during the May riots and has not reopened.

Early last year, Tommy sold his entire stake in Goro to Puskud, a government cooperative.

Beddu was replaced last August after the agency was accused of gross inefficiency and corruption.

The scam reportedly caused the government Rp 96 billion in losses.

After undergoing initial questioning in the case, Tommy was banned by Habibie's government from leaving the country. (emf)