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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


Waiting to confront the bankers

Finance Fixing Indonesia
I.O.U. The biggest bad loaners

EVEN IF MARCH 13 THIS YEAR did not fall on a Friday, it brought bad luck to at least 10 people. On that day, they all took suddenly ill - and had to seek treatment outside Indonesia. Coincidentally, March 13 was also the day the government shut down 38 banks, some of them owned or managed by the stricken men. Would they have ended up in court? The bankers need not worry. In November 1997, Jakarta ordered the closure of 16 banks. More than a year on, just one person has been charged with breaching lending limits - and Anwar Syukur owned Bank Anrico, the smallest of the 16.

Such is Indonesia's tangled legal net: if it takes 16 months to snag one small fry, catching the big fish could take a long, long time. Citizen protests and outrage in the media only underscore the public's helplessness to confront those whose alleged greed undermined years of national advancement. Says Jakarta lawyer Prajoto: "When a bank is profitable, shareholders get dividends. When a bank collapses, the people are sacrificed."

Bank Indonesia has been reluctant to publish a blacklist of bankers it suspects of banking violations, such as recording fictitious transactions. The central bank says it has yet to back up the allegations against them. Critics counter that the list could also reveal the incompetence or corruption of regulators. The local weekly Tempo printed a list of 172 bankers banned from leaving the country. But it found some had already vanished, while a number of well-connected figures, including members of the Suharto family and prominent pribumi (indigenous) businessmen, are not on it.

Last year, police did question Mohamed "Bob" Hasan and Syamsul Nursalim over the way their banks used loans from Bank Indonesia. But the investigation ended when the authority to probe banking irregularities was transferred to the central bank in late 1998. Hasan, Nursalim and other bank owners later won amnesty for exceeding intergroup lending limits in exchange for a promise to settle their obligations with the government within four years. The cases against them are now classified as "pending" - along with those against three Bank Indonesia directors fired last year for alleged corruption.

If a case does get past the central bank, it will go into the justice system. Foreign experts have been tapped for technical help, but Indonesian courts may be unprepared for the influx of specialized banking cases. Here is the final irony. Once the government cleans up and recapitalizes the 12 banks it has taken over, the previous owners will have first crack at buying them back.

- By Jose Manuel Tesoro/Jakarta

Family members and friends of former Indonesian president Suharto and others with economic influence account for most of the lending by Bank Indonesia (the central bank) and state-owned institutions.
LIEM SIOE LIONG patriarch of the Salim Group and formerly Indonesia's richest man $5.4 billion
SYAMSUL NURSALIM head of conglomerate Gajah Tunggal $3.2 billion
USMAN ADMADJAJA CEO of Bank Danamon $1.4 billion
MOHAMED "BOB" HASAN Suharto's golfing buddy $700 million
ONGKO friend of Hasan $890 million
HASHIM DJOJOHADIKUSUMO brother of Suharto son-in-law Prabowo $356 million
SUDWIKATMONO Suharto's half-brother $214 million
BAMBANG TRIHATMOJO Suharto's oldest son $2.6 billion
HUTOMO "TOMMY" MANDALA PUTRA Suharto's youngest son $556.8 million
PRAYOGO PANGESTU owns timber company Barito Pacific $295 million
CIPUTRA Jakarta property magnate $159 million
ABURIZAL BAKRIE one-time Suharto favorite and an ally of senior economics minister Ginandjar Kartasasmita $136 million
Source: Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home



U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

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