The Real Story of Sukanto Tanoto

Sukanto Tanoto and Deutsche Bank

Sukanto Tanoto nowadays called himself An entrepreneur, philantropist, visionary and pioneer of a number of industries in Indonesia

But here’s the real story of his success, full of corruption.

Sukanto Tanoto started his business empire in 1971 with his forestry business and began expanding to other sectors after establishing Raja Garuda Mas Plywood with an investment of IDR 1 billion (USD 142,000) in 1973 (PDBI, 1997). Sukanto gained control over more natural forests in Aceh when he took over PT. Overseas Lumber Indonesia, which had HPH concession rights on 250,000 hectares of forest in 1979. He then expanded into oil palm plantations in 1980 in partnership with the Salim group, as well as other plantations and fisheries projects. At the same time, Sukanto diversified into the pulp industry with PT. Inti Indorayon Utama in 1983 and PT. Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) in 1994. Inti Indorayon Utama’s cost was about USD 402.2 million while RAPP cost USD 2.15 billion. Sukanto took over PT. United City Bank in 1987.

Twenty-five years after his first investment in the forestry sector, his business empire through domestic and foreign investment had expanded into 16 sectors. His conglomerate was valued at IDR 4 trillion (USD 571 million) by the end of 1996.

Sukanto Tanoto took over the United City Bank from its previous owner, James Semaun, and changed its name to Unibank in 1990. In 1997, at the time of the crisis, he turned the bank into a publicly listed company with total assets of IDR 1.9 trillion. At the time of this transaction, he and his partner owned 25 percent of the bank’s shares. Unibank was considered healthy by the Bank Indonesia and IBRA in 1997 and did not enter the recapitalization program. Interestingly, only a year after going public Unibank started showing structural problems and was placed under the Bank Indonesia’s ‘close supervision’ category. The Bank Indonesia requested that Unibank replace its board of directors, increase its capital and temporarily cease certain activities. Despite these requests, Unibank’s health continued to deteriorate. In November 2000, Bank Indonesia put Unibank into its ‘special supervision’ category and finally, at the end of October 2001, closed it down. Some analysts suggested the Bank Indonesia should have closed Unibank down in June 2001. However, since IBRA (representing the Indonesian government) did not have funding to repay Unibank customers’ deposits, the decision was delayed until October 2001

Sukanto Tanoto successfully avoided being held liable for the costs of closing Unibank. By the time the Bank Indonesia finally closed it down, Tanoto was no longer the owner, and none of the shareholders owned more than five percent of its total shares. In August 2001, two months before the closure, Bank Indonesia, Bapepam (the Capital Market Supervisory Agency), and IBRA had allowed Unibank to announce changes in the composition of its shareholders, and to break up its ownership into shares of less than five percent. This allowed shareholders to avoid reporting requirements, which applied to transactions involving shares equal to, or more than five percent of total shares. Some analysts felt this move was engineered to protect Sukanto Tanoto, the controlling shareholder of Unibank, from his obligations.

The Indonesian government could not force Sukanto Tanoto to enter a shareholder debt settlement as they did with Bob Hasan. Tanoto had no liability to the government, despite the fact that IBRA had to repay customer deposits of IDR 3.1 trillion or about USD 442 million. The story did not end there however; as a result of IBRA’s own regulations it was forced to pay up to IDR 70 billion, or about USD 10 million, towards deposits owned by several subsidiaries of Tanoto’s RGM Group. Expansion while not repaying debts Sukanto Tanoto, the owner of the Raja Garuda Mas Group, gained significant financial benefits from the financial crisis. He was able to expand his pulp mills in Riau while not paying his obligation on time. Foreign and local financial institutions allowed the group to increase its mill capacities. Using its holding company, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd. (APRIL) that controlled Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) and Inti Indorayon Utama, the Raja Garuda Mas Group raised RAPP’s mill capacity from 850,000 tons per year in 1999 to 2,000,000 tons per year in 2001 making it the largest pulp and paper mill in the world (Barr, 2001).



The real Tanoto

As revealed by Wendy,, Sukanto lies even about his father’s death. Sukanto made up his story of from Rags to Riches, telling people about how he become a billionaire from just working hard.

At an interview with CCTV China,, Sukanto was compared with the Wright brothers!


What he never told people how he colluded with government officials and even stole his own brother’s money.

Sukanto came from a reasonable wealthy family, his father owned a shop selling petrol and oil in Belawan, North Sumatra. he managed to get contracts with Pertamina, the government petroleum company. He was then able to collude with then Ibnu Sutowo, the president director of the Indonesian oil and gas company Pertamina in the 1970s. Ibnu was famous for corruption, resulting Pertamina with a massive amount of foreign debt  USD 8 billion, and majority of it was contributed from corruption.


The real story of Sukanto Tanoto

Wendy Tanoto, nephew of Sukanto, has an interesting story to tell:

My uncle, Sukanto Tanoto is a very good story teller. As I mentioned several times in my blog, he always lies to me and my family since I was young.

He made up lie even on the most obvious fact, such as- his father’s death.

In his own biography and multiple interviews, my uncle, Sukanto Tanoto claimed that our grandfather passed away when he was a teenager in 1972.


” His father, an immigrant from Putien, Fujian province, was then running a three-man firm in Medan supplying spare parts to oil and construction companies. The elder Tanoto died soon after his son joined him at work, leaving the teenager to helm the family business.”

– From rags to US$2.8b fortune” Laurel Teo (2007-04-07) Business Times Singapore


“Young Sukanto had a dream of becoming a doctor but he could not pursue his dream. It is because when he was 18, his father died because of stroke, and as the oldest son, he must take the responsibility for the family.”

– Sukanto Tanoto: Remembering the Past- From Zero to Hero (2014)


Sukanto Tanoto was not born and grown up in a wealthy family. His father, Amin Tanoto, passed away when Sukanto Tanoto was 18 years old.

– Sukanto Tanoto’s Keys to Sucess in Business, Part 1 (2014)


“Eldest of 7 boys left school at age 17 to join father’s 3-man firm supplying parts to oil and gas companies. Took over after father’s early death. “

– #450 Sukanto Tanoto- The World’s Billionaires (2009)


In reality, my grandfather was alive until 2000 and passed away when Sukanto was 51 years old, which made him a little too old to be considered as a teenager. Well, people have different measurement, so no judgement on that. But making up a fake year of his own father’s death may go a little too far.

I celebrated many holidays with my grandfather, together with my uncle when I was young.





Photo: This family picture was taken in 1993. Grandpa is sitting in the center. Sukanto is sitting right next to Grandpa with a red tie. According to Sukanto, he is a teenager when he took the photo. Maybe he would also think that the woman sitting next to him is a teen mom. (Unfortunately there is no date on this photo so Sukanto can totally say that we lied about the dates and this was actually taken when he was a teenager in or before 1972. I would leave the lying part to Sukanto since he’s better at that.)

It’s unclear to me why it is necessary for Sukanto to lie about my grandfather’s death.

Just remember one thing, it is always wise to think for a second before believing Sukanto’s words because they cannot survive scrutiny.



Open Letter to Sukanto Tanoto from Wendy Tanoto

This is Wendy Tanoto.

When I was six years old, my father, Polar Yanto Tanoto died in GA152 air crash on his way flying back to our home in Medan, Indonesia on Sep 26th 1997. I can still vividly remember the day when I learned the news. It was a typical Friday afternoon when the kids were expecting dad to join the dinner at 6pm.

For those who don’t know what happened, I’m here to tell you the story of a family who survived from the abuse by the Indonesian richest man, Sukanto Tanoto, the Chairman of RGE.

Right after my father’s death, Sukanto Tanoto, my father’s 30 years business partner/ brother skillfully contemplated actions to steal my father’s estates and today, he is celebrated as the richest man in Indonesia.

It happened so quickly and so skillfully that I remember how everything started to go against my family after my father’s death. It was scary. My mother only realized things started to go wrong when Sukanto asked her to sign over my father’s estate to him 1 week after my father’s funeral. Personal attacks, humiliations and death threats started to come to my mother when she refused to sign the document. Little do we come to expect that they all come from the closest person to our family, my uncle Sukanto.

For as long as I could remember, my uncle is like the Lord Voldemort. He became very mean and distanced toward my family after my father’s death. I hate when my uncle accused my mother for born with bad luck that caused my father to die even though he knew that his words would devastate my mother even more. I didn’t like how he undermined my father’s contribution to the company. I didn’t understand how he can possibly tell the world that my father, his business partner who built a billion company with him own nothing. I didn’t expect all bad things to come at once. I thought every uncle would react this way to their nieces when their father passed away in a sudden accident.

All of his actions, accusation, humiliation toward my mother was just a way to make her breakdown, so she would not be able to manage the battle against him.

After long legal battles, my mother decided not to pursue the estate case further. It was exhausting for a single mother with 4 children and no financial income to fight against one of the most powerful men in Indonesia. There were always lawyers from around the world willing to defend him and make up things to accuse my mother. Every time my mother tried to protect us, the lawyers can always twist my mother’s actions as a gold digger who used her children as a leverage. But the truth is that we were at the edge of poverty, and my mother can no longer afford our school fees. When every wife in Indonesia was allowed to access their husband’s public records, my mother was not able to. The officials told my mother that he could not give her my father’s public record unless she resolve the problems with Sukanto and got his permission. Yes, he has influences in the government.

The fact that Sukanto got away from what he did to my family haunted me as I grew up. I couldn’t stand the tortures my mother has to go through after my father died. I couldn’t understand why my mother had to tell me that she could not sign the settlement offered by my uncle in 2000 as our guardian to give up my father’s estates because she knew my father owned much more. Even though people around her pressured her to sign the settlement, my mother knew that what Sukanto offered was purely humiliating to her husband and her family. I couldn’t understand why my grandmother told me that my mom could not be with me when I was sick because Sukanto bribed the police to arrest her in Indonesia. I was horrified at that time because I just lost my father. Every time I saw a news article on Sukanto, an interview with Sukanto, and people praising his fortune as the richest man in Indonesia, his philanthropy work and receiving the highest honor of the Dean Medal by Wharton School of University Pennsylvania – I would wonder how they would react if they know how Sukanto has taken advantage of widow and orphans of an air crash passenger/ his closest brother.

For so long, Sukanto Tanoto’s success restrained me from telling the truth. My family was asked to give up many things after my father died, but this time I decided not to give up my rights and speak my story.

Today, I think I’m fortunate. What happened to my family has brought us closer together. We support each other and appreciate each others’ existences for that difficult time. Most importantly, I have a mother who support and love us unconditionally.

However, there are people around the world suffering from abuses by powerful men who still struggle to tell their stories. They give me the courage not to be silence anymore.

I want to ask the Board of UPenn who awarded Sukanto Tanoto the Dean Medal if they know what Sukanto has done to the family of an air crash victim before honoring him.

I want to ask the people who helped Sukanto to abuse our family what if their daughter has to go through all these at young age.


Imelda Tanoto bought a 30 million house

ACTIVITY in the Good Class Bungalow market is starting to pick up with a few deals done recently.Along Margoliouth Road off Stevens Road, a two-storey, old bungalow has changed hands for $30.8 million. This works out to $1,696 per square foot on its land area of 18,161 sq ft.

Located at a cul de sac, the freehold property has a swimming pool, five bedrooms and a maid’s room. It is likely to be redeveloped.

The property is being sold by a retiree couple. The buyer is Imelda Tanoto. The Singapore citizen owns an adjoining bungalow while her parents Sukanto Tanto own another bungalow nearby.

Ms Tanoto is the eldest daughter of Singapore-based Indonesian tycoon Sukanto Tanoto of the Royal Golden Eagle International group, a holding company with businesses in a range of industries including paper, palm oil, construction and energy. It owns Singapore-headquartered Asia Pacific Resources International Limited, one of the world’s biggest and most corrupt producers of fibre, pulp and fine paper.



More Belinda Tanoto Wedding


You asked for it

Here it is, Belinda and You Ning


At Sukanto tanoto’s house in Singapore


Wedding reception at Villa del Balbianello

Lake Como, Italy. Costs: Millions of Dollars






Belinda Tanoto Wedding Photo




Wedding reception at Villa del Balbianello Lake Como, Italy. Costs: Millions of Dollars


Sukanto’s first Merc revived for favorite daughter



in medan



Rick Van Lee: Canadian Engineer jailed by Sukanto Tanoto

Rick Van Lee worked for Sukanto as a technical manager for Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) from 2005. he was a hard working man and each year Sukanto presented substantial President/CEO awards to Rick subject to the CARE-program for career advancement, compensation, coaching and communication and as “…a recognition from the Company for your [Rick’s] contribution, commitment, and loyalty…”:

In Feb 2011, Sukanto gave him a bonus of 1 Million USD.

But things turn sour when Rick said he wanted to quit and retire.

Rick was first kept in his home in Kerinci by company security staff of RAPP and from 4 July 2011 Rick was in custody by the police in Pelalawang Jail and  the district attorney detained him in the Pekanbaru Prison on Sumatra, Indonesia. On 4 December 2011 he was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

The only official accusation made by APRIL via RAPP against Rick, is that he has used private data storage media for safekeeping company data during his work and extensive traveling. This is against company rules, but Rick was allowed to do so for the best of the company. The permission was granted each year in writing by the CEO of APRIL, Mr A. J. Devanesan.

Even if his decision to leave the company is a disappointment for the management it can’t be justified to seek revenge in such a manner. Rick was jailed by Sukanto because he wants to quit!

Rick van Lee suffered a stroke while being detained by APRIL and is in very poor health condition. Following the stroke, Rick experienced a severe depression not allowing him to eat or sleep properly. The local police denied Rick medical attention during his first time in jail. Only because of repeated requests by the Canadian Embassy and Rick’s lawyer, the Police have, very reluctantly, at several occasions provided medical treatment in Police Hospitals on Java and on Sumatra in order to keep Rick alive.

Rick was finally released by the pressure of Canadian Embassy. Read it at


Rick van Lee suffered a stroke while held prisoner by APRIL and is in very poor health condition

Sukanto Tanoto: The Abuser

Sukanto Tanoto is well known as a forest destroyer and doing corrupt business. But now his own nephew has revealed how he is an abuser of his own brother’s family.

Polar Tanoto was Sukanto’s brother, both set up Indorayon and RAPP pulp company in Sumatra. In 1997 Polar died in a plane crash. This become a chance for Sukanto to steal all of his brother’s assets and shares from the company. That is now why RGE is fully owned by Sukanto. He stole his own brother’s assets.

Wendy Tanoto, his niece now tell the whole story at

Sukanto Tanoto at his brother’s wedding in Medan. Little we know later he “murdered” his own brother and stole all his money.