Suhartos sell boltholes in UK for pounds 11m

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The Independent Online
THE EXTENDED family of Haji Mohamed Suharto, the former Indonesian president, is selling pounds 11m worth of London property - lavish real estate that bears testimony to the extravagant lifestyle they enjoyed.

The decision may stem from the fact that in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, an investigation is under way into how the Suhartos made their fortune and, as a result, Britain is refusing visas to many family members.

Denied the free access to London they once enjoyed, the Suhartos have put three properties in expensive areas of the capital up for sale.

One north London property - an eight-bedroom detached house with banqueting rooms and marble floors in Winnington Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb - is on the market for pounds 8m, the price having been reduced from pounds 9.5m. Another house nearby, being sold for pounds 1.95m, was used by the family servants.

The family is also believed to own another three properties in London and the Home Counties, though it is not clear if they intend selling them.

The sales signal the end of a bizarre association between the Suharto family and London. For two decades they used it as a bolthole and playground.

The tales of their exploits are legion. To those in favour, the Suhartos were generous hosts. An Indonesian student who went to parties at one of the properties in Winnington Road thrown by Suharto's grand-daughter, Eno Sigit, said: "It is certainly a luxurious place. It is not what most of us are used to but that is the thing with Eno - she is not like the rest of us."

Indeed she was not. While she was a fashion student at the American College in central London, to which she travelled each day by chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce, her father, Sigit Harjojudanto, threw her a party at the Hilton Hotel. The bill came to a reported pounds 150,000. "Whatever she wanted, she could have," said another acquaintance. "Change your mobile phone. Change it twice a day! Just because you don't like the style or the colour."

Another home in Winnington Road is in the name of Mr Harjojudanto's wife, Ilsje Ratnawati, but is used almost exclusively by the family's friends and retainers.

Such luxury might seem excessive but that was the way the family lived. "Imagine you're one of the London cronies," said another acquaintance, also preferring to remain anonymous. "Not the first level - one of the children or grandchildren - not even the second level, but just one of the third layer: close to the family, but not that close. Even those people live in luxury - a flat in Lowndes Place, a big car, seven bedrooms. As for the family themselves, they lived like sheikhs. They spent money like water."

A visitor to another of the properties said: "You could only use about two of the rooms. The rest were filled with boxes, shopping bags from Selfridges which had been there for years. They've bought them and never got round to opening them, and they've forgotten what's inside. It's scary." A friend who went gambling at the Ritz Casino with Suharto's eldest son, Tommy, said: "[One night] he dropped more than pounds 1m without even giving it a thought. Then we went to dinner."

Across London, in Putney, Suharto's half-brother Probosutejo is selling Norfolk House, a detached three-storey home with four reception rooms, a billiards room and servants' quarters on the upper floor. Mr Probosutejo, who has owned the property for 16 years, has put it on the market for pounds 1.4m.

The denial of visas to family members follows a decision by Britain last year to refuse entry to Suharto's son-in-law, Prabowo Subianto, disgraced former head of the Indonesian special forces. While the corruption investigation launched by President BJ Habibie, who replaced Suharto last year, is unlikely to touch him, the family is taking it seriously. None of the members was at the London properties yesterday.

Last night the Tapol Indonesian human-rights group urged Britain to freeze the Suhartos' assets, estimated at billions of pounds.

A spokesman, Paul Barber, said: "It is clear the family are selling their properties in London so that the proceeds can be hidden away. The demands of the Indonesian people that the family and cronies account for their wealth and human rights crimes have not been satisfied."

pounds 8m

89 Winnington Road. Suharto parties were held in its banqueting rooms

pounds 1.4m

38a Putney Hill, home of Suharto's half-brother

pounds 1.95m

8 Winnington Road - used by the Suharto servants