State Can Seek Tommy Suharto Assets: Prosecutors

JAKARTA ~ State prosecutors insisted on Thursday they had a right to seek millions of dollars from the son of ex-president Suharto in a civil suit related to a land scam he was criminally cleared of.

State prosecutors are representing the national logistics agency Bulog, which in August filed a civil suit against Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy, alleging he was involved in a 1995 land exchange scam.

Tommy was a commissioner for Goro Batara Sakti (GBS), a now defunct supermarket business, which acquired prime land owned by Bulog in return for a worthless swamp in North Jakarta.

Bulog is seeking Rp550 billion (US$59 million) in material and immaterial damages.

Tommy’s lawyers told the South Jakarta District Court last week that it should reject Bulog’s claims as their client was cleared of all charges in a criminal case in 2000.

But state prosecutor Yoseph Suardi Sabda told the court that the civil code allowed for a civil suit to be lodged even when a defendant was discharged in a criminal case on the same matter.

“The case is not ‘ne bis in idem,'” or one where a defendant cannot be tried twice, he said.

Tommy was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in 2000 over the original land swap, the first time a Suharto was convicted for corruption.

Tommy escaped however and the case was overturned, though the former playboy was eventually caught and jailed for ordering the murder of the judge who had convicted him.

He was freed last year after serving just a third of his 15-year jail sentence.

Tommy’s lawyers have filed a countersuit against Bulog, seeking about $1 billion in damages, claiming the agency’s suit is defamatory and caused Tommy’s current web of companies to miss out on winning lucrative projects.

“The losses of money that the defendant suffered has nothing to do with Bulog. Their losses are due to the Guernsey court freezing his money,” Sabda said, urging the court to reject the countersuit.

Sabda was referring to funds allegedly belonging to Tommy that were frozen in BNP Paribas branch on the island off England, which both sides want repatriated.

The trial resumes on January 14.

Tommy is also a suspect in a separate criminal case that involves a state monopoly he used to head.

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