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Friday, 18 February, 2000, 10:43 GMT
World Bank considers Timor inquiry

Mr Wolfensohn greets President Wahid in Jakarta Mr Wolfensohn greets President Wahid in Jakarta

By Richard Galpin in Jakarta

The president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, has said that, if necessary, he will investigate fresh allegations that millions of dollars of World Bank funds were diverted by the former Indonesian government to finance militia gangs in East Timor.

The Jakarta-backed militia are widely believed to have been responsible for much of the violence surrounding last year's referendum on independence.

World Bank president, James Wolfensohn: James Wolfensohn: "This is a new story"
Speaking after holding talks with the Indonesian President in Jakarta, Mr Wolfensohn said the journalists from Australian television, which broadcast the story this week, should pass on any fresh information they had to the bank.

The allegations that World Bank money was being used by the former government to finance the militia gangs in East Timor first emerged last May, just as it became clear that the militia were carrying out atrocities against the civilian population to terrorise them into voting against independence.

The bank says it carried out a thorough investigation at the time, but did not find any evidence that its money was being diverted to East Timor.

A promise to investigate

The allegations re-emerged in a documentary broadcast on Australian television this week.

The programme, made by SBS TV, interviewed civil servants who were based in Dili last year and who allege that the former government was directly funding the militias with money from international donors.

This is a new story. If there's any new specific information, I'll be glad to transparently take a look at it
James Wolfensohn
The programme went further, alleging that the World Bank did not do enough to stop it.

World Bank president James Wolfensohn, who is currently on an official visit to Indonesia, explained that the Bank was aware of the reports.

"From what we have seen so far, and we did a thorough investigation the last time, we were unable to prove anything."

However, he promised to investigate the matter further.

"This is a new story. If there's any new specific information, I'll be glad to take a look at it and, if something is there, we'll find it; and if it isn't, we'll also know that."

A World Bank spokesman has confirmed that, if further investigations are carried out, it will publish the results as soon as they become available.

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See also:
14 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
President Wahid suspends army chief
13 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
The evidence against Wiranto
31 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Wiranto faces prosecution over Timor
11 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesian generals tell Wiranto to go
 |  Asia-Pacific
UN calls for Timor tribunal

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