ad info

TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards

TIME Asia Asiaweek Asia Now TIME Asia story

Man with a Mission: Find Suharto's Loot


When Suharto presented an environmental award to George Junus Aditjondro in June 1987, the President added some perfunctory words of advice: "Continue with your work." Suharto might now regret that cursory counsel. Turning his attention from green issues to corruption, Aditjondro has made himself the world's leading authority on Suharto family wealth. After years of analyzing Indonesian press reports, he estimates the fortune to be at least $25 billion (larger than the amount TIME ascertained through its reporting). Nowadays any research on the subject begins with Aditjondro, whose articles and interviews are reproduced on hundreds of Internet sites. "He was the first guy to put together detailed information on the Suharto wealth and businesses," says Endy Bayuni, managing editor of the Jakarta Post. "He felt that somebody had to do it."

Aditjondro's interest in Suharto Inc. grew out of his work with conservation groups: he kept stumbling upon First Family companies. He says he discovered that behind almost every case of wanton environmental damage--from industrial pollution to destructive practices in mining, logging or tourism--lurked a Suharto firm. Rather than fight against myriad individual abuses, Aditjondro decided to attack the root of the problem. In 1994 he began collecting and cross-checking press clippings on the family businesses, painstakingly unraveling a complicated web of corporate interests. Though he fled to Australia in 1995 under police pressure, Aditjondro, 53, continues to investigate every Suharto-linked asset he can find. He insists it's not personal. "My fight is against the system, the oligarchy," he says. "It's larger than Suharto and more difficult to transform than simply removing him."

The son of a Javanese judge and a Dutch nurse, Aditjondro went to school in both Indonesia and the Netherlands. For most of the 1970s, he worked as a reporter for the newsweekly Tempo (banned by Suharto in 1994 and reopened last October). In the 1980s he got involved with non-governmental organizations, championing the rights of indigenous people--particularly in Irian Jaya, East Timor and Aceh--and working to build a network of conservationist groups across the archipelago.

Only months after he began researching the Suharto business empire, police started summoning Aditjondro for interrogations. With a lengthy jail term looming, he left Indonesia, giving up his teaching position at Satya Wacana University in Central Java and the home that he and his wife Esti had just finished renovating. He took a research fellowship at Perth's Murdoch University and later a five-year teaching contract at the University of Newcastle, on Australia's east coast, where he has developed a course on the sociology of corruption. Last year Aditjondro published From Suharto to Habibie: The Two Leading Corruptors of the New Order, which has sold 21,000 copies. He is now working on a book comparing the Suharto and Marcos oligarchies.

Both of Aditjondro's favorite topics--the Suharto wealth and the rights of ethnic minorities, issues that were taboo only a year ago--are now at the center of public debate in Indonesia. But he is saddened by the way his academic colleagues played it safe for so long, embracing reformasi only after Indonesian students pushed it into the mainstream. Aditjondro's identification with the underdog may be related to his ethnically mixed origins. "The Dutch kids called me 'nigger' and the Indonesian kids called me 'whitey,'" he says. "If you're a marginal person, either you become crushed by the majority, because you try to assimilate, or you use your marginality to understand all sides--the oppressed, the oppressor and the system itself."


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

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN

Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.