Judge Orders Corruption Probe Reopened

JAKARTA ~ A court ordered the attorney general on Tuesday to reopen a probe into a massive corruption scandal involving billions of dollars in loans lent during the Asian financial crisis.

District court Judge Haswandi ordered the Attorney General’s Office to “continue the investigations” into Syamsul Nursalim, one of Indonesia’s richest men, over missing billions of dollars his defunct bank owes the government.

Bank Dagang Negara Indonesia (BDNI) owes Rp30.9 trillion (US$3.37 billion) in so-called liquidity funds handed out by the central bank in 1998 at the height of the Asian financial meltdown.

Bank assets confiscated and sold by the state have only yielded about Rp1.8 trillion, but the Attorney General’s Office decided in February to drop its 10-year investigation into the missing money.

Days later, the chief prosecutor on the case, Urip Tri Gunawan, was arrested with $660,000 in cash as he left Nursalim’s Jakarta home. His case remains under investigation and he has not been charged with any crime.

Two other top officials involved in the BDNI probe have been removed from their posts following an internal inquiry by the Attorney General’s Office.

Nursalim left the country several years ago and is reportedly living in Singapore.

The Nursalim family founded the Gajah Tunggal Group and is involved in a vast range of businesses, including tire production and shrimp farms.

Last month an anti-corruption citizens’ group filed a lawsuit demanding the South Jakarta District Court order the attorney general to continue the probe.

Judge Haswandi said even though BDNI, which went bankrupt and has been swallowed by its rivals, had repaid some of the loans, “the return of state money does not cancel the criminal act that was committed.”

A representative of the Attorney General’s Office said it would appeal the decision.

“The [office] did its work legally and correctly,” he said.

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