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Slippery Tommy lands family in trouble

Straits Times - October 10, 2001

Devi Asmarani, Jakarta-The state wants the death penalty for one jailed grandson while two daughters and a son-in-law are under fresh graft probes.

Members of the Suharto clan continue to be in serious trouble with the law, except favourite son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra. He is the only one who has thus far been declared innocent of graft by the Supreme Court and has remained virtually untouched. The playboy billionaire never served the 18-month jail term handed last November and even managed to get the conviction overturned in a controversial Supreme Court decision last week.

On Monday, he disappointed state prosecutors for the second time by not showing up at their office to sign legal papers acknowledging his acquittal, an administrative yet vital procedure in the Indonesian law. South Jakarta chief prosecutor Antasari Azhar said he would give Tommy a third chance to show up, or the latter would retain his "fugitive" status. "It's up to him now-if he wants to be a free man or not," said Mr Antasari.

His lawyers and siblings' assurances that Tommy would come out of his 11-month-long hiding seemed no more than empty promises to stall time. President Megawati Sukarnoputri has reportedly backed lawmakers' calls to investigate the judges who acquitted Tommy.

But while Tommy continues to evade law, the same cannot be said of his relatives. His eldest sister Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, her husband Indra Rukmana-Kowara, and another sister Siti Hediyati Hariyadi were questioned on Monday for the alleged mark-up of the Jakarta Outer Ring Road project handled by the company they co-owned. This reportedly led to US$123 million in state losses. His older brother Bambang Trihatmojo was also investigated for the dubious acquisition of a textile company's assets.

Tommy's disappearance exposed some of his relatives' much-protected private lives to the authorities, landing them in trouble with the law. His jailed nephew Ari Sigit yesterday underwent trial for illegal possession of 70 bullets. They were found during a hunt for Tommy at the former's house. During a search last year at the house of Tommy's younger sister Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih, police also found an unlicensed gun. But she was never charged.

There have been threats by the authorities to arrest Tommy's wife and siblings for allegedly hiding his whereabouts from the police. His family members have been questioned for hours by the police and had their homes raided in the hunt for him.

Said a former aide of Suharto: "The fact that he hasn't come out despite the mess he's created shows what a callous, irresponsible person Tommy is." But Tommy reportedly remains at large because he is still a suspect behind the shooting of Supreme Court judge Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, who convicted him last year for graft, and several bombings in the capital.