Indonesia hunts abroad for Tommy Suharto

JAKARTA, Reuters

Indonesian police said on Friday they had sought Interpol’s help in their widely ridiculed attempts to track down the fugitive son of disgraced former President Suharto.

Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, sentenced to 18 months prison after being found guilty of an US$11 million land scam, went on the run a week ago when authorities visited the Suharto family estate in central Jakarta to take him to jail.

“So far we don’t have any significant progress,” national police spokesman Saleh Saaf told Reuters.

“We are still focusing the search in Jakarta. We have also sent a letter to Interpol in Paris to assist us in this search in case Tommy is abroad.

“But I doubt he’s abroad, because he is banned from leaving the country,” he said.

Tommy’s flight has been a deep embarrassment for the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid and further undermined already scant confidence in the country’s judicial system.

Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman ordered the police to summon Tommy’s lawyers and possibly members of his family to help find where he was hiding.

“Tommy is now on the run, therefore an investigation is needed of the people who might know or could give information about where he is,” he told reporters.

Saaf has already dismissed widespread suspicion, in a country where bribery is routine, that officials might have helped the millionaire Tommy stay out of the small cell awaiting him in Jakarta’s Cipinang prison VIP block. Tommy’s lawyers say the former playboy and racing car driver will not go to Cipinang jail — dubbed by one former inmate as Indonesia’s “heaven of prisons” — until he is guaranteed protection from threats of rape and murder.

Tommy is the only member of the Suharto family to be convicted of any crime during the 32-year rule of his father which ended in crisis in 1998.