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Soeharto may return $25b to the govt: Abdurrahman

CAIRO (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid estimates that some US$25 billion of former president Soeharto's wealth will eventually be returned to the state.
Speaking to journalists upon his arrival at the Egyptian capital on Sunday afternoon, the President did not elaborate on his estimate but confirmed it was roughly equivalent to media reports of the Soeharto clan's wealth.
"At least around US$25 billion, but how much further is the limit I don't know," Abdurrahman replied when asked to respond to media estimates of Soeharto's wealth. He then stressed that it would be up to the courts to decide how much should be returned. "Based on our laws it is the court who determines the amount, not the executive (president). So we'll let the judge decide this," he added. He then mentioned last year's edition of Time magazine which estimated the Soeharto wealth at around $15 billion.

The Central Jakarta District Court threw out earlier this month a defamation libel suit lodged by Soeharto against the U.S. magazine due to its May 24, 1999, cover story. The magazine reported that Soeharto and his family had amassed a fortune of around $15 billion. Soeharto has denied the report, saying he does not have a "single cent" hidden abroad. Apart from an Attorney General's Office investigation on Soeharto's alleged abuse of power to amass wealth through his foundations, the government revealed last week that Minister of Mines and Energy Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was also negotiating with the Soeharto family to return some of the money or assets he alleged took from the country.

"Time magazine wrote there was about $15 billion. They won the case in court. It means that their estimation was about right," Abdurrahman said on Sunday, explaining his rationale. The President arrived in Cairo on Sunday, the last leg of his eight- nation two-week tour, to attend a G-15 Summit. In a related development, Soeharto's lawyers have filed a complaint to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights office in Switzerland against the Attorney General's Office for violating the rights of their client in its investigation of him. Lawyers Juan Felix Tampubolon, O.C. Kaligis and Indriyanto Seno Adji filed the report due to persistent questioning from prosecutors despite Soeharto's ill-health. Another of Soeharto's lawyers, Mohamad Assegaf, who stayed in Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that Attorney General Marzuki Darusman had ignored Soeharto's health. Commenting on Saturday's brain scan on his client, Assegaf said previous examinations had found "spots" on the former President's brain.

"The latest technique, scintigraphy, is more sophisticated and hopefully gives a more accurate assessment," Assegaf said. But Marzuki told the Post on Sunday that the investigation would not be affected by the result of the brain scan. "Even if the answers are mostly 'I don't know' or 'I can't remember' ... they're his answers. We have to take them as his answers. However, we will cross check everything with the witnesses' testimonies," Marzuki told the Post.

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