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Attorney General: "It's Very Hard"


On April 8, 1999, TIME corespondents met in Jakarta with Indonesian Attorney General Andi Muhammad Ghalib and two of his aides, director generals Anton Sujata and Soehandjono, to discuss the official investigation into President Suharto's wealth. The following are expanded excerpts:

TIME: In investigating Mr. Suharto's social foundations (yayasan), have you found that some of their funds went to the wrong places?
GHALIB: Yes, some of the money was not used for social prosperity or social purposes.

TIME: And that's not enough to charge the former President?
GHALIB: There's a problem, because to make the charge of corruption, we have to prove that money came from the state, and is not private.

TIME: The preliminary report on the foundations by former Attorney General Soedjono found that many...
SUJATA: Pak Soedjono never gave information. We found all the information from my team.

TIME: But what about his audit? You've seen his audit, right?
SUJATA: On the yayasan, yes. From the aspect of civil and administrative cases: that is Pak Soedjono. Mr. Ghalib and I have taken the criminal aspect. So the first time we didn't have any information from Pak Soedjono.

TIME: Except his audit.
SUJATA: Audit to him, not to me.

TIME: But in that audit by Pak Soedjono, there seems to be a basis for charging Suharto with misusing money meant for natural disasters, building mosques. I'm wondering on this question of charging other members of the family.
GHALIB: This is based on the foundations, actually. Mr. Soedjono left this case, but only about the foundations--only five foundations--and found only about one trillion or more, but we increased it.

TIME: To 2.4?
GHALIB: Yes, 2.4. As soon as I became the Attorney General, Mr. Soehandjono and I increased this. We found it because we tried to make it a legal and financial audit--very serious.

TIME: Do you think it's likely that other members of the former First Family will be charged? At the moment Tommy is being investigated.
GHALIB: As you know, Tutut, Bambang, Sigit--all of them are businessmen. If we have proof that they're corrupt, of course, according to our law, there must be two--what do you say--two basic, or two pieces of evidence of corruption. One is that state money is lost and the second one is that it is against the law. So if you say there is corruption we have to look for whether it is the state money and if the state lost money or not. If you find it, it's a corruption case.

TIME: In all of these months, all that you've investigated is the national car case [Mobnas], the foundations, and you've made inquiries, what, with embassies, regarding their assets abroad?
GHALIB: Yes, yes.

TIME: Why isn't your investigation any broader than that? There are so many other allegations.
GHALIB: Yes, that's a good question. But I have to tell you that because the focus of our investigation is Mr. Suharto, just Mr. Suharto first. So, if we want to make it good, we must look for more and more proof on Mr. Suharto himself. We have to separate him from his family.

TIME: So you're still in the stage of preliminary investigation?
SUJATA: From December 1998.

TIME: On the basis of your investigation so far, and the other information that is available to you, do you suspect that the former president has broken the law in any respect?
GHALIB: Ya, kita curiga. [Yes, we suspect.] Kita, what do you say, suspicion. We have to increase this preliminary investigation, and if it's proven, we have to increase it. This is our aim now: to increase it.

TIME: If you suspect that there has been corruption or embezzlement or fraud, somewhere, even if you haven't found it, why haven't you asked foreign governments to freeze assets that the former President may have overseas?
GHALIB: Many people have asked me about that. It's very hard, you know, because, we start with the law. So, without any proof, without any evidence, it's too hard to say. So, I already sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to find out whether there is [money], abroad, in a bank, maybe some land, houses and so on. The minister has found nothing in the name of Mr. Suharto.

TIME: This is from Pak Alatas?

TIME: And did he say anything about whether there might be assets in someone else's name?
GHALIB: No, no, no, except for the family. Family, he said, but I don't know. We are looking for Mr. Suharto's [money] abroad.

TIME: For example, Switzerland has said publicly that they're willing to freeze any bank accounts, they're willing to help but they have to have a request from Indonesia and still there's no request?
SUJATA: According to Indonesian law, in the preliminary investigation we cannot freeze the assets.

TIME: Has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached foreign governments?
GHALIB: About Mr. Suharto? No. Only about the family.

TIME: People say, "Ghalib is a military man, a three-star general"
GHALIB: Suharto is five-star. [Laughs]

TIME: Are you covering up for him?
GHALIB: No, no, no. This depends on the law, on what is right. We have investigated him twice. If we have proof, yes. O.K., we are very, very serious, but this must proceed through the law.

PAGE 1  |  2  |  3


May 24, 1999

Suharto Inc.: All in the Family
Indonesian officials say they can't find evidence of ill-gotten wealth. But a four-month TIME investigation reveals that the former President and his children now have assets worth $15 billion, including fancy homes, jewelry, fine art and private jets

A Talent for Business
Cash and assets acquired by the family over 30 years

"I Never Asked"
The Attorney General has few answers

A man on a mission to track the loot

Money Trail
A top sleuth lays out a battle plan

Jeffrey Winters on stealing big

"Not One Cent Abroad"
Suharto's lawyers respond

Flawed Legacy
Author Pramoedya Ananta Toer says that Suharto's sins run much deeper than greed

This edition's table of contents | TIME Asia home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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