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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 12:40 GMT
Indonesian admits illegal Clinton gift
President Bill Clinton
Clinton said he did not recall a limousine ride with Riady
An Indonesian businessman has agreed to plead guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to US President Bill Clinton, US officials said.

The US Justice Department said that billionaire James Riady had agreed to pay an $8.6m fine for contributing foreign funds - the largest fine ever levied in a campaign finance case.

Mr Riady pledged $1m in 1992 to back Mr Clinton, then Arkansas governor.

Foreign campaign contributions are illegal under American law.

The businessman has agreed to surrender and was scheduled to appear before a judge in Los Angeles on Tuesday, despite Indonesia having no extradition treaty with the US.

Community service

Mr Riady was set to plead guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy for federal election law violations.

Al Gore and Bill Clinton
There has been controversy over how the Democrats funded their 1996 campaign
Under the plea bargain, he would not go to prison but perform 400 hours of community service.

He will also be barred from making any future contributions to US elections.

The Justice Department said an American offshoot of the Riady family's Lippo Group conglomerate - LippoBank California - would plead guilty to 86 lesser offences.

A former Riady employee, John Huang, has already admitted making illegal contributions.

Foreign policy aim

The illegal funds were funnelled through Hong Kong bank accounts and Lippo entities overseas, government papers said.

Vietnamese worker carrying coke bottles
Normalising US relations with Vietnam was one aim of Lippo Group
The documents said that the Lippo Group had hoped to obtain access to politicians and high-level government officials in order to influence US foreign policy.

Among the group's aims were gaining most favored nation trade status for China, normalising US relations with Vietnam and having open trade policies with Indonesia.

Mr Riady was one of the main figures in the controversy over how the Democrats financed their 1996 re-election campaign.

The documents mentioned a limousine ride that Mr Riady shared with Mr Clinton after a 1992 fund-raiser in California in which the pledge to donate $1m was made.

Mr Clinton has said he remembered seeing Mr Riady "sometime in '92" but did not recall the limousine ride.

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See also:

22 Apr 00 | Americas
Clinton quizzed in funding probe
11 Mar 00 | Americas
Memo reignites US funding row
24 Nov 98 | Americas
'No grounds' for Gore investigation
10 Nov 98 | Latest news
FBI probes Clinton funding
06 Jan 00 | Parties
The Democratic Party
14 Jan 00 | Vote USA 2000
Q&A: Big bucks politics
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