Fri, 22 Sep 2000

Two ex-soldiers jailed for counterfeiting

JAKARTA (JP): Two former servicemen, Ismail Putra and Eddy Kereh, were sentenced on Thursday to seven years and four years in jail respectively, for their roles in producing Rp 19.2 billion (US$2.2 million) in counterfeit money.

Judge Poerwanto of the Central Jakarta District Court showed some leniency toward the two defendants, declining to sentence them to the eight years sought by state prosecutors or the maximum 15 years allowed under Article 244 of the Criminal Code.

"The defendants are in their 60s. Eddy in particular has devoted his life to the country and earned many medals during his service in the Navy," the judge said.

He said their roles in a counterfeiting syndicate ranged from procuring printing paper to finding printers.

Ismail, 64, a former member of the Army's Combat Intelligence Unit, is from Duren Sawit in East Jakarta. Eddy is a retired Navy officer who is already serving a 1.5-year jail term for another counterfeiting conviction.

The two defendants declined lawyers, choosing to defend themselves during the trial.

While the two defendants have been found guilty and sentence, there is one unanswered question remaining in the case: what, if any, was the role of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Tyasno Sudarto in the counterfeiting syndicate.

In one of the court sessions, Ismail said Tyasno worked with the syndicate last year when he was chief of the Military's Intelligence Board (BIA).

In spite of the allegation, the prosecutor in the case, Soejitno, refused to call Tyasno to the stand, saying he did not have enough evidence linking Tyasno to the case. The panel of judges also declined requests by lawyers of other defendants in the case to summon Tyasno.

The general has publicly denied the allegation, which he has described as a lie and slander.

When pressed by reporters, Soejitno defended on Thursday his decision not to involve Tyasno in the trial.

"It was the job of (police) investigators to involve the military police in this case, and to find out if Gen. Tyasno was involved.

"This case is about counterfeit money. I have evidence that both defendants were involved in its production," he said.

Ismail said he was disappointed with the court's decision, insisting that as a former soldier, he was only acting on orders from his superiors.

"Gen. Tyasno told me that Gen. Wiranto had picked BIA to run the counterfeit money operation to fund the (pro-Indonesia) East Timorese militias," he said after the verdict.

Gen. Wiranto was chief of the Indonesian Military until October last year.

"He (Tyasno) told me that the Army could not afford to lose East Timor. He said I had to do this for the Army," Ismail said.

"The face of the general in recent magazines is very similar to the face of the man who made me the offer," he said.

The two men told the court they needed time to decide whether to appeal the verdicts.

Eddy continues to proclaim his innocence, saying he was only a driver for Ismail.

Judge Poerwanto gave them seven days to decide if they will appeal.

Ismail and Eddy were the first of 10 defendants to be sentenced in the counterfeiting case. The eight other defendants still on trial are Yustinus Kasminto, Junie, A. Khui, alias Ardy Sukarman, Ramelan, Bambang, Triyono, Slamet and Tono.

All 10 were arrested in February at a printing company on Jl. Palmerah Barat in West Jakarta.

Earlier at a separate hearing, Kasminto and Junie pleaded not guilty to charges of producing counterfeit money.

The prosecutors in the trial have demanded 4.5-year jail terms for both defendants.

Kasminto's lawyer, Yanuar Bagus Sasmito, accused the prosecutors of attempting to gain popularity through the trial, saying the evidence against his client was baseless.

Kasminto was the owner of the printer used by the syndicate to produce the counterfeit money, but he insists he had no knowledge the printer was being used to make counterfeit money.

"My client has nothing to do with the production of fake money, much less selling it," Yanuar said. (ylt)