UK Court ‘Freezes Tommy Suharto Funds’

LONDON ~ A Guernsey court has approved an Indonesian application to freeze money allegedly hidden there illegally by the youngest son of former president Suharto, a British newspaper said.

Jakarta’s intervention was granted on Monday in the case of a company owned by Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy Suharto, that is suing a French bank for refusing to release funds, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Indonesia believes the money was obtained through corruption and belongs to the republic.

Tommy’s Garnet Investment, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, is suing a branch of BNP Paribas on Guernsey, a British crown dependency off the northern French coast.

The bank is refusing to release at least 36 million euros (US$46.7 million) and perhaps as much as 75 million euros from its account, the FT said.

The Guernsey court approved Jakarta’s bid to become a third party in the case, said Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia’s ambassador to Britain.

The money in the account “is beneficially owned by the Republic of Indonesia” because “it was obtained by corrupt use of power” during General Suharto’s presidency, he told the FT.

“We’re still building our case, however. We will present more evidence when the full trial starts on March 8.”

Salman Maryadi, a spokesman for Indonesia’s attorney general, said corruption was not the main issue.

“The best result would be that the court recognizes Tommy’s outstanding obligations and orders the money there to be used to pay them, he said.

“Whether the money was obtained corruptly can be dealt with later.”

He said Indonesia was keen to seize the money held in Guernsey because the authorities were not aware of any other assets.

“He is reportedly doing business here but we cannot prove that it is his money,” he said.

“And we didn’t go after the money in Guernsey until now because we didn’t know it was there until this case emerged.”

An amateur racing driver who reveled in a flamboyant playboy lifestyle, Tommy, 44, remains the enduring symbol of the corruption that plagued his father’s rule of Indonesia, which ended in 1998.

He was freed from prison in October 2006 after serving just a third of a 15-year jail term he was originally handed in July 2002 for ordering the murder of a Supreme Court judge.

Tommy’s father stepped down in 1998 amid a severe economic crisis and massive civil unrest. He and his family had amassed a huge fortune during the president’s rule of more than three decades.

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