Monday, July 09, 2007

Just the tip of the iceberg

Prosecutors in Indonesia have filed a lawsuit against their former dictator, Suharto, seeking to reclaim some $420 million dollars embezzled by the elderly kleptocrat. So what's the problem?

The problem is that $420 million is the tip of the iceberg. As the most infamous of the 20th century's kleptocrats, Suharto's haul of stolen monies reads like a typographical error: over $15 billion dollars, with some estimates going as high as $25 or $30 billion dollars obtained through bribery, the establishment of monopolies and outright embezzlement. This figure elevates Suharto to, perhaps, being the greatest thief in history. Certainly, the amount of money looted by Suharto far surpasses his somewhat more notorious kleptocrat peers like the late Mobutu Sese-Seko of Zaire, the late Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and the Duvalier dynasty of Haiti.

So why are prosecutors only looking for such a relatively paltry amount? It's alleged that the money has been widely dispersed, both in the forms of economic monopolies on everything from clove cigarettes and fuel at home, to investment properties overseas, nearly all of which are nominally owned by Suharto's brainless playboy son, Tommy Suharto. Much of the money allegedly resides in bank accounts in Switzerland and Austria, countries whose banking laws favor the privacy of the depositor.

It's doubtful that Indonesia will recover so much as a thin dime from the octogenarian dictator, who has been in poor health for years. What's more, much of the stolen money has been so thoroughly laundered through legitimate (or semi-legitimate) business interests inside Indonesia for so long, that recovering the stolen money by appropriating the assets that laundered it could seriously damage the Indonesian economy. So it appears that the $420 million figure may have been reached by attempting to calculate the cash reserves kept by Suharto and his family inside Indonesia itself, which really, is nothing more than pocket money for the world's most successful kleptocrat.


Anonymous said...

you need to include the who is who of the notorius school of americas (SOA) graduate dictators like Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia etc.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Roger could not be bothered to create yet another account not to be anonymous , I don't want to sound like another left wing nut, just merely highlighting untapped ground for your blog :)