From The Jakarta Post
Soeharto cannot walk with wealth: SBY
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised former president Soeharto would not be allowed to walk free with the wealth he and his family amassed during his 32-year reign, despite graft charges against the ailing former leader being dropped.
Amid the controversy following the Attorney General Office's decision to drop corruption charges against Soeharto, Yudhoyono said the government would seek an appropriate settlement of the case that embraced both justice and humanity.
"The solution to this case must not sacrifice the causes of justice and law enforcement in our country. If it's impossible to pursue prosecution due to Soeharto's health, we believe that the (cash-rich charitable) foundations (controlled by Soeharto), which are the reason we were pursuing the prosecution, can be relinquished to the state," Yudhoyono said.
He said the government would deal with any problems that might prevent the foundations, through which Soeharto is alleged to have embezzled some US$419 million and Rp 1.3 trillion ($150 million) in public money, from being handed over to the state.
Yudhoyono made his statement hours before Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh announced Friday that graft charges against Soeharto were being dropped due to the former president's poor health. However, he said the case could be reopened in the wake of new evidence or an improvement in Soeharto's physical condition.
The decision to halt the prosecution was issued by the Central Jakarta District Court, where Soeharto's case was first filed in 2000. The former strongman never appeared in court after being declared unfit to stand trial following several small strokes and other health complications.
Abdul Rahman said the decision on Soeharto would not affect the prosecution of the former president's associates alleged to have embezzled public money through the foundations.
The Attorney General's Office, which lifted Soeharto's travel ban Thursday to allow him to receive medical treatment abroad if he wishes, is now considering a civil suit against Soeharto to recover the state funds he is alleged to have embezzled.
However, a Soeharto lawyer, O.C. Kaligis, said Saturday that pursuing a civil case would be impossible given that the wealth in question was an inseparable part of the prosecution.
"(The decision to drop the prosecution) means everything is over," he said.
Soeharto, 84, on Thursday underwent his second surgery in a week after experiencing vomiting and breathing difficulties following a first surgery to stop intestinal bleeding.