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Suharto focus turns on NZ

Forwarded by GATT Watchdog, 28 August 2000.

28 August 2000

By Matthew Dearnaley, NZ Herald.

Indonesia may send a fact-finding mission to New Zealand in efforts to unstick the global financial web of its disgraced former first family, the Suhartos.

This follows a meeting in Jakarta at the weekend between Indonesian Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman and New Zealand anti-free-trade activist Aziz Choudry, who presented him with a dossier of information on Suharto family financial interests here.

Amid feverish preparations for putting General Suharto on trial this Thursday for corruption, Mr Darusman spent an hour with Mr Choudry and two Indonesian pro-democracy campaigners at a heavily guarded Jakarta hotel.

Although New Zealand interests do not yet figure in charges against the former president, Mr Choudry said the Indonesian press was fascinated to learn that his family's financial empire extended to the remote South Island Mackenzie Country.

He said the meeting with Mr Darusman included some discussion about a possible fact-finding tour of New Zealand by Indonesian officials and people's movement leaders.

Suharto is charged so far with funnelling $US571 million ($1.3 billion) into the coffers of family members and cronies from huge tax-free charity foundations, although critics claim this is only a fraction of what he and his clan stole from the Indonesian people during their 32-year rule.

Mr Choudry, in Jakarta for an international development forum, took with him a dossier of material gathered by exiled Indonesian corruption researcher Dr George Aditjondro and the Christchurch-based Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa.

He had to negotiate his way through tight security around Mr Darusman, in whose office a bomb exploded in June after Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo (Tommy) Mandala Putra, was pulled in for questioning on suspicion of vast corruption.

Tommy Suharto features prominently in Mr Choudry's dossier, having built a luxury hunting lodge at Lilybank Station in the Mackenzie Country for more than $6 million before flicking it on for a token $1 to a Singaporean associate last year.

His sister, Siti (Titiek) Hediyati, also owned two Queenstown chalets before selling them to a company that researchers believe is controlled by her and her husband, former Indonesian special forces commander Prabowo Subianto.

Foreign Minister Phil Goff pledged assistance to Mr Darusman in April to help to secure any part of the Suharto fortune remaining here, but the only information he has forwarded so far relates to the chalets and lodge.

A spokesman said yesterday that the minister had invited Indonesia to respond if it wanted more help, but had yet to receive a request.

Mr Choudry said from Singapore that a full investigation was needed into corporate links between New Zealand and Suharto cronies, believed to span forestry, commercial property, aviation, fishing and energy interests.

Included in his dossier was a Weekend Herald report that Brierley Investments was forced to take on Tommy Suharto as a shareholder in its troubled $1 billion Javanese geothermal power project, although that link has since been severed.

He said Mr Darusman was keen to inspect documents and wanted guidance from his New Zealand counterpart, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson, on what legal instruments might exist here to widen the hunt for assets.

"Pak Marzuki [Mr Darusman] has asked for some help in establishing exactly the legal procedure from the New Zealand end of things."

Despite some Indonesian criticism of Mr Darusman, Mr Choudry said he impressed him as a resolute official who would get the job done.

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