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Ex-president Suharto's son named suspect in corruption case

JAKARTA -- Indonesian authorities declared on Thursday the son of Indonesia's former president Suharto a suspect in a multi-million-dollar embezzlement case linked with the country's clove-management agency.

Attorney General Hendarman Supandji confirmed that Hutomo Mandala Putra, also known as Tommy, has been named a suspect for allegedly abusing Bank Indonesia liquidity credits distributed to the clove trade monopoly board, controlled by the ex-distator's son.

Supandji explained that while Bank Indonesia liquidity credits were supposedly to be distributed to the clove farmers in the country, some were instead used to promote Suharto family interests.

"We will find out where the funds go to," Supandji said, adding that a team of prosecutors would soon question Tommy in connection with the graft case.

Cloves are a major industry in Indonesia, used mainly in clove-flavoured cigarettes. The clove trade was a monopoly under the Suharto dictatorship.

A senior official at the attorney general's office said earlier in Tommy's corruption case that the country had suffered losses of up to 187 million dollars, a fraction of the total of what Indonesia is believed to have lost from graft during Suharto's rule.  

A number of witnesses had been questioned since the criminal investigation into the country's clove trade monopoly was reopened in May.

The attorney general's office announced early this month that it planned to file a civil suit demanding the return of some 3 trillion rupiah (330 million dollars) that went missing when the clove monopoly board was shut down.

The civil suit is part of a deal made by Indonesia with a court in Guernsey, the United Kingdom, which extended a freeze on millions of euros of Tommy's money on May 23. Tommy is currently appealing the decision by the court to extend the freeze, which was made at Indonesia's request Government prosecutors on July 9 filed a civil suit against the "smiling general" Suharto, hoping to recover 420 million dollars of misdirected state funds allegedly amassed during his 32 years in power and a further 1.1 billion dollars in damages.

Authorities claim in court documents that Suharto siphoned off million of dollars from a series of charitable foundations set up under his rule. State banks and other government interests were required to give a share of their profits to the foundations.

While the money was supposed to fund social services, much of it allegedly went straight to a network of institutions owned by the Suharto family network.

Suharto and his family stand accused of amassing as much as 35 billion dollars in corrupt funds during the dictator's rule. He stepped down in 1998 amid a severe economic crisis and massive civil unrest.

Suharto faced numerous allegations of corruption during his rule, but in May 2006 prosecutors closed the criminal cases against the 86-year-old former strongman, citing health grounds.

The 44-year-old playboy Tommy was freed from prison in October 2006 after serving just a third of a 15-year jail sentence for ordering the murder of a Supreme Court judge, weapons possession and evading justice.//Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA)

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