Sat, Jan 13, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Indonesian agrees to plead guilty to illegal donations

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

James Riady, the Indonesian billionaire, agreed on Thursday to plead guilty to a felony and to pay US$8.6 million in criminal fines for his role in funneling money to US President Bill Clinton and other candidates for public office.

The Justice Department said Riady pledged US$1 million to Clinton's 1992 campaign.

Under an agreement filed on Thursday in the US District Court in Los Angeles, Riady agreed to cooperate with the government's continuing investigation of campaign finance abuses. He said he would plead guilty to a felony, conspiracy to defraud the US by obstructing the work of the Federal Election Commission "through deceitful and dishonest means."

A California bank owned by the Riady family conglomerate agreed to plead guilty to 86 misdemeanors arising from campaign contributions made from 1988 through 1994. The government said the contributions were illegal because the money came from foreign sources.

Most of the money went to Democrats. A few Republicans also received contributions.

Federal prosecutors said the US$8.6 million fine was the largest ever imposed in a campaign finance case. Technically, the fine was imposed on Lippo Bank California, a unit of the Lippo Group conglomerate, based in Indonesia, and Riady agreed to pay it.

Riady, an executive director of the Lippo Group, owned about 98 percent of the bank's stock. He acknowledged on Thursday that he had reimbursed campaign donors with foreign corporate money in violation of federal law.

Among the donors who were reimbursed by Riady was John Huang, former head of US operations for the Lippo Group, who became a Commerce Department official in 1994 and a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1996.

In 1999, Huang pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the FEC by arranging for Lippo employees to be reimbursed for campaign contributions in the 1992 and 1994 campaigns. He was sentenced to a year of probation.

Among the recipients were the Democratic National Committee, which got 13 contributions totaling US$115,500, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which got seven contributions totaling US$40,500.

Clinton has said that he knew of nothing improper about the donations made by Riady and members of his family.

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