Suharto denies any wrongdoing

PROBE INTO CHARGES OF EMBEZZLEMENT

FORMER Indonesian President Suharto yesterday responded to accusations that he had misappropriated huge sums of money during his 32 years in office by issuing a public statement denying he held offshore accounts in which to park such funds.

“I absolutely do not have any accounts outside the country,” he said in a statement released by the Dharmais Foundation, a relief organisation which he founded and chaired.

He challenged anyone with proof of embezzlement to give it to the government. If there was corroborating evidence he would return any such funds to the state. “If someone wants to take it, I will sign it over and surrender it to the state.”

He also said the government could carry out investigations into foundations he was linked with – including Dharmais, Supersemar, Dakab, Amalbakti Muslim Pancasila, Purnabakti Pertiwi, Harapan Kita and Dana Gotong Royong Kemanusian.

These help the poor, homeless and elderly and provide religious facilities for Muslims, who make up 90 per cent of the country’s 200 million people.

His statement follows a pledge by the new government to investigate the foundations he set up.

Public pressure has been building for government action against the former leader and his family, who reportedly amassed a fortune. The US magazine Forbes has estimated their worth at US$4 billion (S$6.7 billion). Others give higher figures.

Responding to calls for an investigation, the government set up a team to audit various charitable bodies set up by Mr Suharto. Under his rule, individuals and companies had to give 2 per cent of their annual earnings above 100 million rupiah (S$13,200) to them.

State Secretary Akbar Tanjung said the audit would take three to four months.

The team would also check if the foundations could go on despite the cancellation of a presidential decree guaranteeing them funds. He said the government would take them over if the auditors submitted a negative report.

Mr Suharto denied owning any of the foundations being investigated. He said in the statement: “All of the foundations are not my own, not my family’s and also not the board members’.”

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