Suharto’s son Tommy ignores jail summons

His lawyers claim he was convicted unfairly and accuse the government of using members of the Suharto family to gain points with Indonesians

The youngest son of former president Suharto yesterday shunned a jail summons over corruption charges as his lawyers attacked the government, saying it was attempting to make members of the former first family scapegoats for its political ends.

In what appeared to be a concerted effort to get Mr Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra off the hook for a US$11 million (S$18.7 million) land scam, his chief lawyer Nudirman Munir argued that his client was convicted unfairly.

“This is all a plot to punish the Suharto family and score points with the public,” he told The Straits Times in an interview.

“Why was the court, with more than a hundred cases pending, so quick in passing a verdict on Pak Tommy? There is no merit in their case. An act of corruption means that the state would have suffered losses. There is no proof that it has.” The ruling by the Supreme Court last week overturned two previous lower court verdicts that had acquitted both Mr Hutomo and his business partner Ricardo Galael.

The Attorney-General’s Office, in prosecuting both of them, maintained that the national food distributor Bulog had suffered a significant loss after the two businessmen took over a prime land area it owned in Kelapa Gading and later built a retail superstore there.

Such arguments underscored the legal basis for sending Mr Hutomo and his partner to 18 months in the state Cipinang prison.

But as of yesterday, the deadline for going behind bars, the two cells, each four by two metres, were empty with little hope that it would be occupied soon.

Political observers said the defence lawyers might have a weak case given the hard evidence available against Mr Hutomo, but Indonesia’s complicated legal procedures presented them with loopholes to avoid imprisonment and let him walk free like his 79-year-old father last week.

While a Supreme Court ruling is final, a defendant can escape immediate jail sentence by calling for a case review or seeking a presidential pardon. Mr Hutomo’s lawyers have already indicated that they may ask for a review or re-trial.

At the same time, instead of jailing him immediately, prosecutors had summoned him to meet them before being taken into custody yesterday.

The multi-millionaire ignored the summons to appear at the Attorney General’s Office, sending his lawyers instead.

Mr Nudirman told reporters that Mr Hutomo would answer the summons tomorrow but would seek a review of his case. The lawyer explained that his client refused to go for the meeting yesterday because he had yet to receive the Supreme Court verdict sentencing him to jail.

Sources in the Attorney General’s Office said that even if there was public pressure to arrest Mr Hutomo, it was likely the government would “go slow” despite its earlier pledge to throw him into jail by yesterday.

It would issue him a maximum of three summons before deciding whether to arrest him by force, if necessary. Analysts believe that all this will undoubtedly lead to more foot-dragging and cast even greater doubts on Indonesia’s legal system.

Noted a long-time foreign investor in the country: “They let the former president free because he is too sick to attend his trial.

“His cronies like Bob Hasan are placed under house arrest while others like Tommy Suharto can still walk free despite being found guilty by the highest court on land.

“It is all a mockery and erodes further investor confidence in Indonesia.”

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