Suharto to donate defamation money

Indonesia's ex-dictator Suharto will give to the poor money he has been awarded in a lawsuit against US-based Time magazine if an appeal by its publisher fails, his lawyer said yesterday.

Indonesia's Supreme Court in September awarded the former president US$106 million in a defamation suit he brought against Time for alleging that he corruptly amassed his wealth and squirrelled it away abroad.

Time has vowed to fight the decision and petition the Supreme Court to review its ruling, its only remaining legal avenue for appeal. The case could still take years to be resolved.

'In the lawsuit document, we include a statement from Suharto (saying) that if we win, the proceeds will be donated to the poor,' Suharto's lawyer Muhammad Assegaf told AFP.

Mr Suharto told Gatra news magazine in an edition that hit newsstands last week that the money, after he pays taxes of 35 per cent, 'is to help poor people'. The interview took place at Mr Suharto's home and was published as a transcription. The 86-year-old president stumbled as he tried to answer and questions were repeated so he could answer properly.

Mr Suharto also told the magazine that he had not kept any money in Switzerland, one of the locations he has been accused of hiding cash in.

'It's not true. If there are any (funds), let them be given to the people. But, in fact, there are none,' he said.

Mr Suharto, who is still respected by many in positions of power in Indonesia despite his ignominious fall in 1998, has never stood trial to face allegations of massive corruption.

A criminal trial against him was abandoned on health grounds last year, while a civil suit brought by the government currently being heard by the courts is seeking US$1.4 billion in returned assets and damages.

Transparency International cited the leader in a 2004 report as being the world's most corrupt leader ever, accusing him of stealing US$15-35 billion in state assets. -- 2007 November 2   AFP

Suharto wins US$106m damages over Time article

Indonesia's Supreme Court yesterday ordered Time magazine to pay US$106 million (HK$826.8 million) in damages for defaming former dictator Suharto by alleging his family amassed US$15 billion during his 32-year rule.

The May 1999 cover story in the magazine's Asian edition said much of the money had been transferred from Switzerland to Austria before Suharto stepped down amid riots and pro- democracy protests in 1998.

Suharto, who has also been accused of rights abuses, had filed a lawsuit with the Central District Court in Jakarta and later the Jakarta High Court, both of which ruled in Time's favor.

A panel of three Supreme Court judges, including a retired general who rose in the military ranks during Suharto's administration, overturned the decisions on August 31. The ruling ordered Time Inc Asia and six employees to apologize in leading Indonesian magazines and newspapers as well as Time's Asian, European and America editions.

"Time magazine has to pay US$106 million for defaming Suharto," Supreme Court spokesman Nurhadi said.

"The article and photographs hurt the image and pride of the plaintiff as a great retired army general and the former Indonesian president."

Suharto's lawyer, Muhamad Assegaf, welcomed the "surprise verdict."

Suharto, now 86, seized power in a 1965 coup that left up to half a million people dead and ruled the country with an iron fist for the next three decades, killing or imprisoning hundreds of thousands of political opponents.

He has evaded prosecution on charges of embezzling state funds, with lawyers successfully arguing he is too ill to stand trial, and has never been tried for human rights abuses.

Still, Suharto faces a lawsuit filed by the attorney general that seeks to retrieve US$1.54 billion in alleged stolen state funds.

The Time article alleged that Suharto and his children amassed US$73 billion, the bulk from oil and mining, forestry, property, banking and petrochemicals, but lost much of it during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. It alleged the family had US$15 billion in 1999.

Time could not be immediately reached for comment about the court ruling. But it earlier said its article was based on four months of reporting in 11 countries that uncovered a complex network of corporate investments, bank transfers and property holdings in Switzerland, Uzbekistan and Nigeria. -   2007 September 11  ASSOCIATED PRESS

Suharto's son denies graft in clove trade

(JAKARTA) The son of former Indonesian president Suharto denied on Thursday that he had misused central bank funds in a 175 billion rupiah (S$28.4 million) graft case involving the lucrative clove trade to manufacture cigarettes.

Tommy: He was questioned for seven hours at the attorney general's office

Hutomo 'Tommy' Mandala Putra, youngest son of the former autocratic leader, was questioned at the attorney general's office over the alleged misuse of central bank assistance given to a lucrative clove monopoly agency he chaired in the 1990s.

The agency, known as BPPC, was set up by then-president Suharto to protect clove farmers from fluctuating prices. 'There was no misuse. The rules were clear and the loan agreement made it clear it was only for clove trade,' he told reporters after seven hours of questioning.

The agency's 569 billion rupiah of debt owed to the central bank was paid by a state-owned bank in 1993 and the agency settled its debt with that bank two years later, he said. Tommy, recently named a suspect in the case, said he suspected that the move by the attorney general's office to implicate him was linked to a government effort to seize millions of dollars he deposited in Guernsey.

Indonesian prosecutors say that the money was obtained illegally.

'I hope they are not making up problems because there are no problems here,' he said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came to power in 2004 promising to tackle endemic graft, and officials ranging from former ministers to provincial governors have been jailed on corruption charges.

But the anti-graft drive is being closely watched after critics say it has failed to take on powerful vested interests.

Last month, prosecutors filed a civil suit against Suharto senior seeking to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds allegedly misused by one of his charitable foundations.

The former president, who resigned in 1998 amid civil unrest, was himself charged with graft but escaped prosecution after he was deemed too ill to stand trial. Both he and his family members deny any wrongdoing.

Cases against the Suharto family have often failed to make ground, prompting accusations that Indonesia's legal system can be bent in favour of the rich and powerful.

Tommy did not show up for questioning in the clove trade graft case last week after his lawyer said he was sick and required bed rest.

Tommy, 44, was conditionally released from jail last October, after serving a third of his original sentence for plotting the murder of a Supreme Court judge who had convicted him in another graft case. -- Reuters   18 August 2007


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