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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Court acquits Indonesian banker
Governor Syahril Sabirin
Mr Sabirin has remained in his job throughout his trial

The Indonesian court of appeal has overturned a corruption conviction passed on the Central Bank governor, Sjahril Sabirin.

Mr Sabirin had been sentenced to three years in prison in March for his part in a banking scandal in which state funds were allegedly diverted to the re-election campaign of former President Habibie in 1999.


It seems highly unlikely anyone will be punished [over the Bank Bali scandal], reinforcing the view that the Indonesian elite still stand way above the law

There have still not been any official announcements by the appeal court about its decision, which was apparently made more than two weeks ago

But a spokesman for the lower court said they had received a letter in which the appeal court said it had concluded there was not sufficient evidence to uphold the conviction.

Mr Sabirin never stepped down from his post as Central Bank governor during a long trial, nor even after being convicted.

Under Indonesian law, a convict can remain free until the appeal process has been completed.

Mr Sabirin had always protested his innocence, saying he was a victim of a political witch hunt begun by former President Abdurrahman Wahid two years ago, who had wanted him replaced.

Above the law

His conviction certainly came as a shock as the other figures alleged to have been more directly involved in the Bank Bali scandal were all acquitted.

The overturning of his conviction will mean Mr Sabirin is now assured of keeping his post as Central Bank governor but it will lead to yet more questioning about the reliability of the Indonesian courts.

The Bank Bali scandal, in which around $90m of state funds are alleged to have been diverted to the former ruling Golkar Party and its presidential candidate B J Habibie, remains unresolved three years since it first hit the news headlines.

At the time, it was seen as being so serious that both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund suspended their loans to Indonesia.

Now it seems highly unlikely anyone will be punished, reinforcing the view that the Indonesian elite still stand way above the law.

See also:

14 Mar 02 | Business
13 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Sep 01 | Business
08 Dec 00 | Business
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