Suharto family protests after UK refuses visas

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THE FAMILY of Suharto, the former Indonesian president, has lodged a formal protest after several of its members were banned from entering Britain after an investigation was launched into the source of their wealth.

"This is so shameful that it is unbelievable," said Probosutejo, half- brother of Mr Suharto, who has written to the British embassy in Jakarta demanding an explanation for its refusal to grant visas to his wife and children. "For decades I've been going to Britain and I've always had a multiple-entry visa. Why am I suspected now? What is the reason? Is there any proof that I've done anything wrong or that I've stolen from Indonesia? There is none," he said yesterday.

Like several of the former president's children and close relations, Mr Probosutejo became a multi-millionaire through the award of franchises in cloves, plantations, construction and glass-making. He has been accused of abusing his connection to the former dictator to win contracts unfairly, which he denies. The family put up for sale at least three large homes it owns in London, including two in Hampstead Garden Suburb, on sale for pounds 8m and pounds 1.95m.

The government of the new president, BJ Habibie, is conducting an investigation into the Suharto family's wealth, although few Indonesians believe charges are likely to be brought. Human-rights activists have called for the seizure of the Suhartos' overseas assets. During Mr Suharto's 31 years as president, family members regularly went to London, and British companies sought them out as business partners and "consultants". Mr Suharto's son Sigit was involved in joint ventures with Thames Water and BP.

As recently as last May the Jakarta consulate granted a multiple re-entry visa to Mr Suharto's eldest daughter, known as Tutut. But after Mr Suharto's resignation later that month it changed its policy. Whitehall sources say several members of the extended family have been refused visas.

Mr Probosutejo was also a frequent visitor to London and owned a large house in Putney.

It has been put on the market, although Mr Probosutejo said yesterday that he had changed his mind about selling it. "At one point I wanted to sell it, because my children finished their education but now I found out how much it is worth I'm not selling it." He paid pounds 90,000 for it in 1976 and it has been put on the market for pounds pounds 1.4m.

Yesterday a spokesman for the British Embassy in Jakarta said that its policy was not to discuss individual immigration cases.