Suharto Lawyer Slams Corruption Claims

JAKARTA ~ A lawyer for ex-president Suharto has lashed out at the United Nations and World Bank for including the former leader on a list of alleged embezzlers.

A report by the two bodies released on Monday provides details of the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, a new scheme aimed at helping developing nations recover assets pilfered by corrupt leaders.

A list of corrupt leaders first compiled by Transparency International in 2004 is included in the report, with Suharto placed in top spot, accused of stealing US$15-$35 billion dollars in state assets.

The World Bank adds a further statistic of its own: the annual theft as a percentage of average nominal gross domestic product in Indonesia for Suharto’s 32-year rule was between 0.6 and 1.3 percent.

“That is a very, very irresponsible thing to do for these world organizations,” Mohammad Assegaf, Suharto’s lawyer, said about the publishing of his client’s name.

“It is really deplorable that the report, when mentioning Suharto, uses the words ‘estimates of funds allegedly embezzled.’ If they want to be serious, then they should conduct their own investigation,” Assegaf said.

Suharto has never been convicted of corruption in Indonesia, the lawyer pointed out.

The ageing ex-leader has avoided a criminal trial on health grounds, while a civil suit brought by the prosecutor’s office over alleged embezzlement carried out through one of Suharto’s charities is to be heard next week.

The Supreme Court last week awarded the former president $106 million in a defamation suit he brought against US-based Time magazine.

The Asian edition of the newsweekly published a 1999 report alleging that the former president and his family had squirreled away billions of dollars abroad.

Separately, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said that representatives from his ministry, the Attorney General’s Office and police, were in Washington discussing the initiative with the World Bank.

The team was particularly interested in discussing asset tracing, he said.

“I think this is important, because it is not easy to recover assets that have been embezzled and kept abroad. And for this, international support is needed. I think that from this perspective that is a positive initiative,” Wirayuda said.

He said that Indonesia hoped the World Bank could tap its network with banks in advanced nations to influence them to be more forthcoming in retrieving deposits obtained corruptly.

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