|Subject: 4 JP Soeharto Reports: UN, WB Seem
Determined to Trace Assets [+Editorial; 'Time']
4 JP reports:
- Editorial: The Soeharto Dilemma
The Jakarta Post Friday, September 21, 2007
The Soeharto Dilemma
If former president Soeharto was celebrating his legal win against Time magazine, it would have been short-lived.
The United Nations and the World Bank have placed the former dictator on top of their list of alleged embezzlers, and will help the government of the country he once led trace the assets he allegedly stole from it during his 32-year rule.
The ill-gotten money allegedly amassed by Soeharto is estimated at between US$15 billion and $35 billion. This amount would account for between 18 percent and 43 percent of government spending for the whole of 2007.
Both the Time ruling and the joint move by the two world organizations to launch the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative on Monday only underline our legal system's weakness in investigating, let alone prosecuting, Soeharto over this mega-corruption case.
The fact that the UN and the World Bank have introduced a new scheme aimed at helping developing nations recover assets pilfered by corrupt leaders implies a distrust in Indonesia's judicial system when it comes to taking on the powerful.
This lack of confidence has been apparent in the continuing demands for an international tribunal for Indonesian Army generals implicated in gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999. These generals have escaped sentences, while some have even won promotions.
Despite this distrust, the joint initiative is the helping hand Indonesia needs after almost a decade of thwarted efforts to recover state assets allegedly stolen by Soeharto, his family and his cronies.
There were hopes, later proven to be false, that the reform movement that toppled Soeharto in May 1998 would lead to his trial. The People's Consultative Assembly issued Decree No. XI/1998 which orders an investigation into corruption, collusion and nepotism involving the former president.
However, post-Soeharto administrations have found it hard to fulfill the Assembly's decree, restricting themselves to formal legal measures that are insufficient to settle such an extraordinary case as Soeharto's.
Our law enforcers are dancing to Soeharto's drumbeat. His claims of ill health have helped him avoid trial, a strategy that has been adopted by other former officials to escape justice, or at least buy time.
Soeharto's lawyers are correct, therefore, when they say their client is innocent. After all, he has never been convicted by a court. But it seems he is considered clean only in his own country. The world community, through the UN and the World Bank, see things differently.
State prosecutors are now bringing a civil lawsuit against the former president for alleged embezzlement through one of his foundations, with damages sought from him amounting to Rp 15 trillion. But many believe the momentum has already been lost, and the move will only lead law enforcers to a dead end.
It is a good thing that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will take time out his visit to the United States to attend the UN General Assembly next week to talk to the World Bank about what they can do to recover the money.
But such discussions alone are far from enough. The UN and the World Bank can only provide the basics. The bulk of the job is in Indonesia's hands. It has been apparent from the outset that our leaders' lack of political will has helped Soeharto remain untouchable.
The example of the Philippines should have taught Indonesia a lesson on the bold measures needed to deal with the corruption of former leaders. Former president Corazon Aquino declared the wealth amassed by her predecessor, the kleptocratic dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a result of corruption and froze it. It took the Philippines a decade to finally convict Marcos and recover the stolen assets, but they did it.
There is a pressing need to deal Soeharto's case outside the ordinary legal system. This requires the same courage that Indonesia found when the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly stripped founding president Sukarno of his power in 1967 and when the Assembly impeached President Abdurrahman Wahid in 2001.
Prolonged legal measures, which have proven ineffective, will only drag things out. Indonesia will continue to lose respect in the international community for failing to clean up this mess inherited from the past.
Our leaders deserve respect when it's due, but they should not be above the law.
The Jakarta Post Friday, September 21, 2007
UN, WB seem more determined to trace Soeharto's assets
Vincent Lingga, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The World Bank-United Nations joint initiative to help developing countries recover assets stolen by corrupt leaders could be a tremendous boost to the Indonesian government's efforts to hunt down the billions of dollars allegedly stolen by Soeharto between 1967 and 1998.
However, the final results of the campaign to trace and recover the embezzled funds will still depend on the integrity and performance of our law enforcement agencies, notably the court and anti-money laundering systems.
The experiences of countries such as Nigeria, Peru and the Philippines, which have succeeded in tracing and recovering billions of dollars of state assets stolen by their former heads show that strong domestic political will and the ability to implement legislative reforms and prosecute former corrupt officials is fundamental to successful asset recovery.
However, none of our presidents -- B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri or incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -- seem to have the political courage required to prosecute Soeharto.
It is a further disgrace to the integrity of our justice system that the World Bank-UN report puts Soeharto at the top of the 10 most corrupt former leaders, alleging he stole anywhere between $15 billion and $35 billion.
Even the latest legal move -- the US$1.50 billion civil lawsuit filed by the attorney general against Soeharto at the South Jakarta District Court in early July -- appeared to be simply a public relations ploy to assuage the public's frustration with the government's indecisiveness regarding the former authoritarian ruler's alleged crimes.
But how could the new initiative of the UN and the World Bank help strengthen the hands of our law in tracing and recovering the billions of dollars allegedly hidden by Soeharto and his family?
After all, the World Bank itself has acknowledged it closed its eyes to corruption within its multi-billion-dollar projects in Indonesia during Soeharto's rule.
First of all, the new program, called the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative, will step up legal action against corrupt government leaders from bilateral to multilateral battle under the World Bank-UN umbrella.
Hence, the 140 countries that have signed and ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), are obliged to provide mutual assistance to each other to trace and recover stolen assets.
Under StAR, the World Bank and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime will help such countries as Indonesia with technical assistance and grants to improve its institutional capacity to trace and recover stolen assets, and will see to it that countries on the receiving end of the stolen assets comply with the UNCAC provisions.
The initiative will thus foster much needed cooperation between developed and developing countries and between the public and private sectors to ensure that looted assets are returned to their rightful owners.
Yet more importantly, the UN-World Bank joint battle could strongly deter countries from becoming havens for corrupt money, and corrupt leaders will find it increasing difficult to hide their ill-gotten gains.
Many developing countries have been hindered by their inadequate capacity to prepare indictments, collect and present evidence, properly adjudicate cases and win convictions, trace the proceeds of corruption and obtain valid freezing and confiscation orders.
The problem, as Indonesia has encountered, is that asset tracing and recovery always entails a host of complications and difficulties, including conducting investigations in two or often more jurisdictions, legal differences between common law and civil law between countries or dual criminality conditions.
Herein lies the importance of UNCAC, the legal foundation for the StAR initiative. State parties (signatories) to UNCAC are obliged to extend mutual legal assistance in investigations, prosecutions and judicial proceedings for the return of embezzled public funds on the basis of a final judgment in the requesting state.
It is thus quite clear that any action involving cooperation of other countries within the UNCAC framework still depends on the final (court) judgment in the requesting state.
Other countries, notably developed ones, where our stolen assets are hidden, may not cooperate because they do not trust our court decisions and the credibility of our court system.
The Jakarta Post Friday, September 21, 2007
'Time' verdict threatens RI press freedom
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The public and the media must work together to maintain the republic's press freedom and the current anti-corruption movement, a University of Indonesia communication expert said Thursday.
"All parties, including the press, should accept the Supreme Court's existence in respect of the 1945 Constitution and the rule of law," Effendi Gazali said.
"We must fight against a corrupt judiciary system and media workers have to prove in their (investigative reports) that the Court's ruling on Time magazine is against any sense of justice."
Effendi said the Supreme Court's recent finding in favor of former president Soeharto to the sum of US$106 million in his lawsuit against Time magazine was simply wrong.
Soeharto sued the U.S.-based magazine over its May 1999 article Suharto Inc.: The Family Firm, which alleged the former leader had stashed a massive amount of his wealth abroad.
Effendi said the inclusion of Soeharto by the United Nations and the World Bank in a the list of top world corrupters was a slap in the face for the Supreme Court and the country's corrupt judiciary.
"This means there is something wrong with the Supreme Court and the judiciary system.
"The court should ... reform its institution to repair its tarnished image and uphold justice," he said.
The Supreme Court should use rationality and wisdom in upholding justice and should consider whether its verdict was in line with the public's sense of justice, he said.
Jeffrey Massie and Effendi Choirie, both members of the House of Representatives' Commission I on information, defense and foreign affairs, separately said the court's ruling had discouraged the media and was a setback to press freedom.
They said the court's decision was against any sense of justice and the judiciary system had to be reformed.
The 1999 press law should be used in settling press disputes, instead of the Criminal Code, they said.
Jeffrey said, "Law enforcers should respect the journalistic profession and the journalists' code of ethics and treat them in accordance with Law No. 40/1999 on the media".
The Supreme Court has also come under fire for its move to extend Chief Justice Bagir Manan's term in office, as well as its proposed salary hike for its judges from Rp 15 million to Rp 100 million (US$10,889.6).
The court recently rejected an audit by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), which led the agency to file a request with the Constitutional Court to help settle the dispute.
Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly Hidayat Nurwahid said he regretted the court's rejection.
He said the court should not position itself as an untouchable super body and it "should set a good example in its compliance with the law ... to ensure its accountability and credibility".
The Jakarta Post Friday, September 21, 2007
UN initiative 'inspired' by South Korea
Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
An expert on former president Soeharto's wealth said the United Nations' drive to recover assets accumulated by the former dictator was inspired by the success of South Korea in prosecuting corrupt military regimes of the past.
"UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is from South Korea and I suspect that he was inspired by the success of his country in prosecuting former corrupt leaders from military backgrounds," George Junus Aditjondro told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
"A former South Korean president with a civilian background, Kim Young-sam, was able to prosecute the country's two former corrupt presidents, Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan."
George, who has been studying Soeharto and the flow of his wealth for more than a decade, said the UN's Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, a new scheme aimed at helped developing nations recover assets embezzled by former leaders, had a dual purpose.
"The (initiative) intends to give a lesson to Indonesia and South Korean industry, along with its chaebol, a Korean term for conglomerates. Korean carmakers like KIA and Hyundai made deals in the past with Soeharto's children."
The initiative, launched by the UN on Monday in cooperation with the World Bank and Transparency International, estimates Soeharto's wealth at between US$15 billion and $35 billion.
The challenge now, George said, is how to recover the assets.
Discussing the World Bank, George said its current attitude was far different from during Soeharto's 32-year reign.
"They used to whitewash graft in the (Soeharto) regime. However, after the financial crisis hit the country, the World Bank's attitude started to change."
The World Bank says annual theft as a percentage of average nominal gross domestic product in Indonesia during Soeharto's New Order rule was between 0.6 and 1.3 percent.
The bank lists Soeharto as the worst alleged swindler of state assets, along with Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Alberto Fujimori of Peru.
Corruption Eradication Commission deputy chairman Erry R. Hardjapamekas said the commission would give its full support to the UN and World Bank initiative.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will meet World Bank president Robert Zoellick when he visits the UN in New York on Sept. 22-26. They are expected to discuss the report on Soeharto's alleged wealth.
Soeharto's lawyer Mohammad Assegaf told AFP earlier the UN and World Bank were acting "irresponsibly".
He said the organizations should conduct their own investigations and avoid using the phrase "estimates of funds allegedly embezzled" in their report.
Just prior to the launch of this new initiative, the Indonesian Supreme Court ordered U.S.-based Time magazine to pay Soeharto $106 million for a May 1999 report the court said libeled the former strongman.
The publication reported in its Asian edition that the former president had stashed away a massive amount of wealth in several European countries, including Switzerland and Austria.
The 86-year-old Soeharto has avoided a criminal trial for corruption because of poor health.
A civil suit brought by state prosecutors over the alleged misappropriation of funds through Soeharto's charitable foundations will soon be heard in Jakarta.
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