New Internationalist

Tree That Grows Money

Issue 318

new internationalist
issue 318 - November 1999

Tree that grows money
President Suharto did not just seize political power –
during his 32-year-long rule, his family amassed a
fortune estimated to be worth $15 billion.1
Here we profile eight branches of the family tree.

‘It’s a lie,’ said Suharto shortly after Time published an investigation into the family’s wealth.
‘If they don’t have proof and facts to back it up, it is slander and defamation.
Honestly, that’s more cruel than murder.’


Jobs: Commander of the Army Strategic Reserve, KOSTRAD.6 Removed from office after Suharto’s resignation amid allegations of responsibility for human-rights abuses including inflaming the May 1998 riots.

Prabowo is one of the key sponsors of the US-Indonesia Society, a pro-Suharto US front group launched in 1994 and backed by the military, US corporations and former government officials.6

Investments and significant interests: held by his wife. 3

Other attributes: Prabowo has been on good terms with the US military, participating in joint training exercises and meeting top-level defence and State Department officials. Prabowo is creative in his solutions to conflict – he once chaired a meeting which debated whether or not to assassinate Bishop Carlos Belo of East Timor.6


Jobs: Heads Maharani Group.3

Investments: Banks, financial services, shopping centres and a cement producer in Indonesia.3 Titiek was a partner of Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schieffer and Elle Macpherson in their Fashion Cafe in Jakarta.3

Holds significant interests in: 70 Indonesian companies.3

Other attributes: A star in the military, her husband General Prabowo.6


Jobs: Assistant in ‘administrative matters’ to Bre-X, the company whose gold discovery was later found to be a fraud. Bre-X reportedly put Sigit on a retainer of a million dollars a month for 40 months.3

Investments: Arseto and Panutan Groups in Indonesia1; two residences in East Finchley, London, recently put on the market for almost $16 million5; and a nine-million-dollar home in Los Angeles1.

Holds significant interests in: 115 Indonesian companies.3

Other attributes: Estimated worth = $800 million.4


Jobs: Social Affairs Minister. Duties included persuading the public they should eat rabbit when the rise in the price of chicken made it unaffordable.2

Head of Citra Agratama Persada Group.3

Investments: Toll roads, mining companies, a flour mill, hotels, a television station and banks in Indonesia.3 Tutut has an apartment in London and a spacious home in Boston.2

Holds significant interests in: 111 companies in Indonesia.3

Other attributes: Estimated worth = $700 million.4


Jobs: Bambang controls the biggest of the Suharto conglomerates, the Bimantara Group.3

Investments: In Indonesia, Bambang is involved in infrastructure, chemicals, telecommunications, multimedia, hotels, a television station, mining, property and consumer goods. 3 He also has an $8-million penthouse in Singapore and a $12-million mansion in an exclusive neighbourhood of Los Angeles, two doors down from Rod Stewart.1

Holds significant interests in: 327 companies in Indonesia.3

Other attributes: Estimated worth = $3 billion.4


Jobs: Mamiek is a newcomer to business, mostly as a shareholder.3

Investments: Mobile telecommunications, land reclamation and aircraft leasing in Indonesia.3

Holds significant interests in: Six Indonesian companies.3

Other attributes: An influential husband Pratikto Singgih, head of chemical companies owned by the large Gadjah Tunggul Group.3


Jobs: Tommy is creator of many new Suharto ventures.

Investments: In Indonesia, Tommy has interests in high technology, tourism in Bali, the soybean-crushing monopoly and involvement in the clove-trading monopoly.3 Tommy bought Lamborghini, maker of racy Italian cars, from Chrysler and recently sold it again to Germany’s Volkswagen for $60 million.3 Other overseas investments include a $75-million investment in a logging concession in Burma7 and a 75- per-cent stake in an 18-hole golf course with 22 luxury apartments in Ascot, England.1

Holds significant interests in: 127 Indonesian companies.3

Other attributes: Tommy was the brains behind the National Car project. Supposedly an indigenous product, these cars were actually Kia Sephia sedans from Korea. Called the Timor, the car was vastly unpopular as drivers of them were liable to be beaten up in some parts of Jakarta. A free Timor was reportedly offered to José Ramos Horta in a futile attempt to accord it some legitimacy. 3


Jobs: Ari Sigit’s schemes include selling a sticker that had to be put on all beers sold in Bali and requiring all schoolchildren to buy shoes his company made at $7.50 per pair. Both these were dropped due to public outcry, but his successful plans include creating a cartel which controlled the import of swiftlets’ nests (a gourmet delicacy for the Chinese), and controlling the import of Chinese medicines.3

Investments: In Indonesia, Ari Sigit is involved in trade, distribution of imports, licences.3

Holds significant interests in: 28 Indonesian companies.3

Other attributes: He wants everything to be Sexy. His next plan is to launch a brand similar to Richard Branson’s Virgin label – brand name ‘Sexy’ including Sexy clothes, Sexy Cafe and Sexy soft drinks.3

1 John Colmey & David Liebhold, ‘All in the Family’, Time 24 May 1999.
2 Far Eastern Economic Review 9 April 1998.
3 Michael Backman, Asian Eclipse: Exposing the Dark Side of Business in Asia (John Wiley and Sons, 1999).
4 The Jakarta Post 2 June 1999.
5 Tapol Website
6 Allen Nairn, ‘Our Men in Jakarta’, Nation 30 March 1998.
7 Edward Aspinall, Herb Feith, Gerry Van Klinken eds., The last days of President Suharto (Monash Asia Institute, 1999).
8 Agence France Presse, 21 May 1999.


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This article was originally published in issue 318

New Internationalist Magazine issue 318
Issue 318

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