Suharto foundation to pay back embezzled funds

  • 12/08/2015
A statue of former Indonesian president Suharto is pictured at the Suharto museum in Yogyakarta (Reuters)
A statue of former Indonesian president Suharto is pictured at the Suharto museum in Yogyakarta (Reuters)

An Indonesian court has ordered a foundation set up by former Indonesian dictator Suharto to pay back about US$325 million of embezzled state funds.

The Supreme Court ruled that the huge sum, which came from an educational foundation controlled by the Suharto family, must be returned, said court spokesman Suhadi on Tuesday (local time).

Army general Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for more than three decades until he was toppled by popular protests in 1998.

Graft watchdog Transparency International has labelled him the most corrupt leader of all time, claiming he looted between US$15 billion and US$35 billion from the country during his time in power.

The court ruling, which was handed down last month but only made public this week, relates to the Supersemar Foundation, said Suhadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

It was set up to provide university scholarships to children from poor families but the civil lawsuit filed by the attorney general reportedly alleged the Suharto family had used it to embezzle government money.

The latest ruling reversed a 2010 decision that had ordered the foundation to pay a far smaller sum of around US$320,000, according to the Jakarta Globe newspaper.

"There was a typo, some digits were missing," Suhadi explained of the 2010 ruling, without elaborating.

Juan Felix Tambupolon, a lawyer for the Suharto family, said his legal team had not officially received the Supreme Court ruling, and would decide their next move after seeing it.

"Whether we are satisfied or not, we have to respect the decision. We will decide what to do after studying it," he told AFP.

Suharto died of natural causes in 2008, but there is still much anger among Indonesians towards the late ruler and his family.

His six children allegedly amassed fortunes by enjoying privileged access to lucrative business deals, with the most controversial being his youngest son Hutomo Mandala Putra, popularly known as Tommy.