Closing In On A Tycoon

Three years after an Asian money scandal rocked Bill Clinton's re-election campaign, the Justice Department is closing in on Indonesian tycoon James Riady as the alleged "central figure" in a wide-ranging scheme to circumvent U.S. election laws. NEWSWEEK has learned that prosecutors, armed with details provided by Riady's top U.S. lieutentant, John Huang, believe they have enough evidence to charge Riady--and possibly some subsidiaries of his Lippo Group conglomerate--with funneling illegal contributions to political candidates, starting with Clinton's '92 race. As part of a plea bargain, Huang has told prosecutors the scheme began with an August '92 drive with Clinton during which Riady promised to raise $1 million for his campaign. Huang says Riady then directed him to solicit contributions from Lippo employees who were reimbursed from overseas accounts.

Huang has also described extensive business ties between Lippo and Chinese government-owned entities. But he gave no evidence of a Chinese government "plot" to influence the administration. Sources say attorneys for Riady, who has left the country, have discussed a possible plea bargain with Justice. But a deal appears unlikely because Riady seems unwilling to plead to a felony. Riady "did not commit any knowing violations of federal campaign laws," his lawyer said. A White House spokesman said, "Nobody cares anymore."

Closing In On A Tycoon | News