Indonesian tycoon ‘cleared of allegations’

PROMINENT business tycoon Sofyan Wanandi (below) said after meeting Indonesian intelligence officers yesterday that he had been cleared of allegations that he had links with a banned group suspected to be behind moves to destabilise Indonesia ahead of the presidential election.

The group, which security authorities identified as the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), was said to have been involved in making a bomb that went off prematurely in an apartment in Central Jakarta earlier this month.

The military said it had found documents showing several people were linked to funding the PRD’s cause to generate instability and prevent President Suharto’s renomination in March.

An Interior Ministry source said intelligence officers had found a copy of an e-mail message at the blast site, which mentioned Mr Wanandi and claimed he would provide funds to the PRD.

His brother Jusuf, who chairs the board of the independent Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank, was also mentioned, as were Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation chief Hendardi and Mr Alex Flor of the German-based Watch
Indonesia group.

A copy of the document obtained by The Straits Times revealed an e-mail exchange between two suspects in the blast that said: “Yesterday, I received word from Alex that Sofyan Wanandi, head of the Gemala Group and businessman connected with the Prasetya Mulia group, will help us with the funds.”

Mr Wanandi, a longtime associate of President Suharto, denied funding supporters of the banned organisation. He told reporters yesterday the matter had been settled.

“The authorities called me up for clarification about the documents they found during their investigations. They have accepted all my answers and everything is over.”

A senior intelligence officer said Mr Wanandi was “cleared of all the allegations for now”. The one-star general, however, said he had agreed to accept responsibility if new evidence was found linking him to the investigations.

“We are sure he is not guilty of giving funds to the PRD but we are not taking any risk by closing the matter for good. If we get more information to show his involvement, he will have to answer for it.”

Meanwhile Armed forces chief Gen Feisal Tanjung said the clarification sought from Mr Wanandi, a Chinese Indonesian, had “nothing to do with race or religion”. “He is an Indonesian citizen. If he is wrong, he must be punished. The law must be upheld.”

Mr Wanandi said he made it clear to the intelligence officials that he was no longer involved in politics and had no links to the PRD. He was a prominent student activist leader in the 1960s, campaigning for the downfall of then President Sukarno. He said the others implicated had yet to be questioned.

Mr Jusuf Wanandi, also a political activist in the 60s, refuted suggestions that he was involved with the PRD. “Although my name has been mentioned, I want to make clear that I have nothing to do with the PRD. I am travelling most of the time.”

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