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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

ALL ABOUT FOREIGNERS

Indonesia knows it needs their funds


Search Pursuing Suharto's hoard

Empire The family's known riches

Fronts The money trail winds through charity foundations

FOREIGN BUSINESSMEN IN INDONESIA had barely gotten over the shock of the May riots that forced president Suharto to resign when another scare hit them. Suddenly in June, the Jakarta city government revoked two water-system concessions awarded to Britain's Thames Water and France's Lyonnais des Eaux. Both had Suharto-linked partners - the ousted president's son Sigit Harjojudanto, in the case of the British company, and the Salim Group of Suharto friend Liem Sioe Liong, for the French. The contracts were later reinstated, this time with the city government as partner. No other significant deal involving foreign money has been reviewed.

Not yet anyway. No multinational can be sure its investment is really safe with investigations only beginning into the Suharto family assets. The biggest names in global business have poured billions of dollars into ventures with the Suhartos: Siemens, British Petroleum, Mitsubishi, Toyota Motor, Mercedes Benz. Even companies that say they were forced to play ball with the Suhartos are uncomfortable. "Some have relatively innocent relationships which can be misperceived," says James Castle, a long-time resident business consultant. "There should not be an assumption that everyone is dirty."

Business associations like the American Chamber of Commerce have told the government that contracts with global investors must be honored. "Indonesians have to be careful about being seen as fooling around," warns a Western diplomat. The message has been received loud and clear. Even non-government organizations are listening. "If their investments were legal, I don't think they have to be worried," says lawyer Faisal Tajuddin of the anti-corruption group Gempita. "We need foreign investors for the country. Maybe they can help give information on what was stolen by the Suhartos." How times change.


This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home

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