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Indonesia denies tsunami aid paid for posh ambassador villa in Geneva
JAKARTA (AFP) Apr 04, 2005
Indonesia on Monday denied allegations in a Swiss newspaper that tsunami relief funds were diverted to purchase a swanky resident for its ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.

Foreign ministry spokesman Yuri Thamrin said the Le Matin daily had falsely reported that some of the millions of aid dollars raised by people around the world had been used to house the ambassador in palatial style.

Indonesia is under intense scrutiny over its handling of tsunami aid with fears that an endemic culture of graft will lead to money being skimmed off by corrupt officials.

"The report insinuates that we are using disaster aid funding for the purchase of the residence and this is not at all the case," Thamrin told AFP.

Le Matin said that the purchase of the 9.6-million-franc (8.1-million-dollar) villa in the swish Collonge-Bellerive district overlooking Lake Geneva was inappropriate while many in Indonesia, where 220,000 are dead and missing after the tsunami, still needed help.

But Thamrin said the purchase of the villa had already been agreed by the finance minister on October 12 and the contract was signed shortly after -- more than two months before the December 25 tsunami.

The government had provided the funds in its 2005 state budget, he said, adding that the purchase of the villa would be a long-run saving against costly rents, and would also be an investment for Indonesia.

"The land and the building of the residence becomes the property of the state, not a private property," he said.

He said the new property was needed because the current residence did not have enough parking space for when the embassy was holding functions.

Ambassador Makarim Wibisono, 58, who is also current president of the UN Human Rights Commission, was scheduled to move into the Provence-style villa with his wife and three children in the coming weeks.

They will enjoy a large verandah overlooking a swimming pool, an immense park including a house for the domestic servants, hot-houses, and a volley-ball court, Le Matin said.

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