The Lawyer: "Not One Cent Abroad"
Holed up in the family compound in Jakarta, Suharto declined repeated requests for an interview about his holdings. But Hong Kong bureau chief John Colmey met separately with two of the former President's lawyers, Otto Cornelis Kaligis, head of Suharto's eight-member legal team, and Juan Felix Tampubolon. Excerpts from the interviews:
TIME: There is evidence that $9 billion was transferred from Switzerland to Austria under President Suharto's name.
Kaligis: When I asked President Suharto about this, he told me: "I don't have one cent abroad." And he gave absolute power of attorney to the Attorney General to investigate. If he finds any evidence, Mr. Suharto is ready to be brought to court. Therefore, I do not believe it is true.
TIME: Has Suharto accumulated billions of dollars in hidden wealth?
Tampubolon: There is no legally admissible evidence to say he has accumulated billions. The AG's office has identified his bank accounts: the amount is $2.4 million. Seven foundations chaired by him received funds amounting to $547 million. These foundations, as well as their assets, have been transferred to the government.
TIME: It is seems unlikely those foundations could collect only $547 million over 19 years, given their revenues. In 1990, for example, they had a controlling share in Bank Duta, with assets of $1 billion.
Kaligis: I don't have every detail about them, but the money of the foundations was used to build mosques and churches, to fund student scholarships, and for social activities.
TIME: The AG's office says more than half the money was lent to Suharto's children and friends, who rarely repaid any of it.
Kaligis: In my experience accompanying the President to the examination by the AG, all the evidence was delivered to him. So far his investigations of Mr. Suharto have never touched the children.
TIME: Should Suharto be held responsible for any crimes of the children?
Kaligis: The law says no.
TIME: Do you think Suharto was aware of the greed of his children?
Kaligis: He concentrated on the government. The children as citizens have the right to carry on business, and it has nothing to do with policies of President Suharto.
TIME: Will Suharto ever stand trial?
Tampubolon: In my opinion he will never have to. For every crime he committed, if any, before 1981, the right to prosecute has expired under the statutory period limitation. For any crime committed within 1981-1998, if any, the right to prosecute has been abolished by the decrees of the People's Consultative Assembly, which accepted Mr. Suharto's reports on how he carried out the assembly's mandate.
TIME: Isn't it ironic that many Suharto critics were once his biggest supporters?
Tampubolon: Of course it is ironic that many who used to support Mr. Suharto now consider him as the only culprit of every error committed in the past. Doesn't that mean that they're criticizing themselves?
TIME: Does Suharto continue to influence the military?
Kaligis: When I asked if he is still involved with political life, he said there are "no activities at all." What he is doing now is praying and facing his old age. He knows he is going to die, and as a Muslim he prepares himself for that.