Govt to seize Suharto’s assets soon, says Marzuki

Once the court gives the go-ahead, the government will move in to take his buildings, properties and land worth an estimated four trillion rupiah.

Buildings, private and commercial properties, and land worth millions of dollars are on a list of assets the Indonesian government is planning to seize from former President Suharto.

Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman disclosed that while his office was still compiling the data and exact value of the assets allegedly amassed during Mr Suharto’s 32 years in power, it had already filed court claims to commence seizure in “a matter of weeks”.

“We have not seized anything yet,” he told The Straits Times. “But we have started legal proceedings to get the assets back. Once the court gives us a ruling we want, we will take action.”

Mr Marzuki, under constant public glare and pressure to prosecute Mr Suharto and his children on corruption charges, declined to put a value on the assets, saying the Attorney-General’s Office was still assessing how much they were worth. But he added: “You can imagine how much a building in the city would cost, worth millions, and you multiply that with the number of assets owned, it will be a big figure.”

He said most of the assets – which he described as “non-movable”, land, private and commercial property – were owned by seven charitable foundations of which Mr Suharto is patron.

Government sources put the value of these foundations at four trillion rupiah (S$840 million). A presidential decree has allowed the government to take over these foundations.

Mr Marzuki was responsible for re-opening the probe into the management of these tax-free foundations last December. An earlier investigation was dropped in the last days of Dr B.J. Habibie’s government for “lack of evidence”.

The new administration under President Abdurrahman Wahid had indicated – albeit with mixed signals occasionally – that it would press ahead.

Besides putting the 78-year-old former strongman under “city arrest” and banning him from travelling abroad for a year, Indonesia has also requested the assistance of the Swiss government in recovering any assets that might be in Swiss banks.

Despite these measures, however, there has been slow progress in prosecuting Mr Suharto or any of his six children, some of whom controlled the foundations.

State attorneys had tried repeatedly to question him in recent weeks, but he failed to show up for questioning several times, claiming ill health.

Mr Suharto was questioned once at his home on April 3, but the questioning had to be halted abruptly on the advice of doctors who were present. A second session was cancelled after a joint team of doctors concluded he was not fit enough to face a grilling.

Analysts believe that the move to seize properties and block the private accounts of Mr Suharto were aimed at signalling to the public that the government was taking all necessary measures to safeguard the corruption investigation of the ex-ruler.

Mr Marzuki said: “It is a step-by-step approach. The seizure proceedings have begun and it will be a matter of weeks before we actually take over the assets.”

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