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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
The case against Suharto
Celebrations at Suharto's resignation in May 1998
Joy at Mr Suharto's resignation - now people want justice
As the judges stopped the trial of Mr Suharto because he was too ill to answer the charges against him, our regional analysts Nicholas Nugent and Emma Batha examined the case against him.

Shortly before Indonesia's June 1999 election, the US news magazine, Time, published a special report on former President Suharto which claimed that he and his family had enriched themselves to the tune of $15bn during his 32 years in power.


The government's problem has been to prove where the wealth came from

Among the allegations were that the Suharto family had interests in 564 companies and owned land equivalent in area to the whole of Belgium.

The report said the family owned a ranch in New Zealand, a yacht in Australia, a golf course in England and apartments in Singapore and Los Angeles, and operated several private jets.

Time concluded that it was "not bad for a man whose presidential salary was $1,764 a month when he left office".

Former President Suharto
Mr Suharto: Unfit to stand trial
Rumours about the Suharto family wealth have circulated in Indonesia for many years. Charges of corruption and nepotism against the former president were the main causes of his overthrow in May 1998.

President Abdurrahman Wahid came to office in October 1999, promising to bring Mr Suharto to trial. He has estimated the family's wealth at $45bn - three times that alleged by Time magazine.

But the government's problem has been to prove where the wealth came from.

President Abdurrahman Wahid
President Wahid's fate is linked to the trial
As former attorney general Andi Ghalib put it: "To make the charge of corruption we have to prove that that money came from the state and is not private."

There was little in the lengthy indictment sheet about Mr Suharto's alleged holdings in Indonesia and abroad.

The charges related only to embezzlement of up to $550m from seven charities set up by the former president for social purposes.

Witnesses

The trial opened on 31 August, but the judges threw out the case after medical tests showed Mr Suharto was too ill to answer the charges against him.

Anti- Suharto protester
The Suharto trial provoked strong protests
Doctors said he might not even survive a hearing in which the prosecution intended to call 130 witnesses.

Had the trial gone ahead, prosecutors planned to argue that he had diverted funds from the seven charitable foundations to bail out ailing or bankrupt companies, including a private bank, Bank Duta, and one of the country's airlines, Sempati Air.

Other funds were allegedly transferred to companies controlled by Mr Suharto's business and golfing partner, Bob Hassan, who also faces trial for embezzlement.

Cronies

Although many Indonesians have been keen to see the former autocrat brought to account, they would have preferred to see him on trial for bigger alleged crimes and human rights abuses.

These include the anti-Communist pogrom that accompanied his rise to power in 1965, and army brutality in East Timor and Aceh.

Many also wanted him brought to book for allegedly favouring his family, and cronies like Bob Hassan, in granting trading monopolies for cloves and oranges and for the unofficial "taxes" he imposed by demanding donations to his charities.

Democracy

The Suharto trial was supposed to be an important part of restoring political and financial accountability to Indonesia and another important step on the road to democracy.

But the charges against Mr Suharto were announced just as Mr Wahid himself was being called to account before the country's parliament for his perceived failure to carry out his election pledges.

Mr Wahid is now facing impeachment after parliament decided to press ahead with censure.

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