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Massive deposits may be Suharto's

Straits Times - August 3, 1998

Vienna – A massive inflow of foreign money early this year supports suggestions that former Indonesian President Suharto moved billions of dollars to Austrian banks shortly before his downfall, an Austrian business newspaper has said.

Central-bank figures showed the value of investments held by foreign depositors at Austrian banks rose by 93 billion schillings (S$11.9 billion) in the first quarter of this year, the daily Wirtschaftsblatt reported in its Friday edition.

"That was by far the biggest increase ever recorded by the statisticians," the paper said. It added that the figures gave weight to the conclusion of Mr David Hale, chief economist of Switzerland's Zurich Insurance, that Mr Suharto had moved about US$8 billion to Austria. "Apparently their ilk doesn't trust Swiss banks anymore, with the breaching of that country's bank-secrecy laws," he told US business magazine Barron's.

Austrian banks, however, have refused to comment, citing customer confidentiality, newspapers reported on Saturday. An Austrian Finance Ministry official also said on Saturday there was no evidence to suggest Mr Suharto or his family had deposited billions in the country.

Mr Suharto, who resigned in May amid an economic crisis and rioting, denied last month that he had foreign bank accounts and said that charities he set up during his presidency were open to auditors. Austrian banks are required by law to establish the identity of customers involved in transactions worth more than US$16,000.