James Riady

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James Riady
James Riady.jpg
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Hanyu PinyinLi Bái

James Tjahaja Riady (Chinese: ; pinyin: Li Bái; born 1957 in Djakarta)[1] (also known as Lie Zen[2]) is the deputy chairman of the Lippo Group, a major Indonesian conglomerate. He is a Chinese Indonesian, and also the son of Mochtar Riady, who founded Lippo. Lippo ceded its control of Lippo Bank to Khazanah of Malaysia in 2005. Since his conversion to evangelical Christianity, James is now focusing on the study of theology.

Early life[edit]

Riady studied at the University of Melbourne in Australia.[2]

Business activities[edit]

Riady's entry into the American business community began in 1977, when he was persuaded by Arkansas banking moguls W. R. Witt and Jackson T. Stephens, and founders of Stephens Inc., one of America's largest investment banks outside of Wall Street, to become partners in the Stephens's Worthen Banking Corporation, after the younger Riady was sent by his father, Mochtar Riady, to set up a banking presence in the United States. Mochtar Riady was also interested in helping Jimmy Carter's former budget director, Bert Lance, sell stock he held in the National Bank of Georgia, though the deal never materialized. Through their dealings with Stephens Inc. the Riadys made the acquaintance of the then-Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton. In the early 1980s James and his father signed a licensing agreement with Zenith Electronics to produce color television sets in Indonesia and built a large production plant near Jakarta. Later, in 1985, Worthen was indicted of having administered several million dollars' worth of illegal, preferential loans to companies owned by the Riadys. The loans had allegedly been channeled through Lippo Finance and Investment, the Riadys' Little Rock-based company established in 1983, as well as the Stephenses and Liem Swie Liong, another Chinese-Indonesian businessman, sometimes described as having been Mochtar's mentor.[3]

After Worthen, James Riady bought the Bank of Trade in California, the oldest Chinese-American bank. Not long afterwards, the U.S. federal government issued cease-and-desist orders for "hazardous lending" and for violations against the money-laundering statutes.[4] Riady then promptly sold the bank.

James Riady moved to Los Angeles and established Lippo Bank with the help of Taiwanese banker John Huang. Again the bank lost a lot of money, made a number of bad loans, and violated laws of money laundering[1].

Together with Jim Guy Tucker he established a company called AcrossAsia Multimedia Ltd. Tucker, another former Arkansas governor, had been forced to vacate the governor's mansion in 1996 due to alleged fraud in the Whitewater scandal. The two had met through Little Rock's Second Presbyterian Church. With AcrossAsia Multimedia they wanted to build the largest cable TV infrastructure in Indonesia using a company called Kabelvision. The venture was unsuccessful[2].

The Riady family recently acquired the tallest skyscraper in the western US, Los Angeles' US Bank Tower, for $367.5M through OUE, a Singapore-listed entity that it controls.[5]


Clinton Finance Scandal[edit]

Corruption controversies have marked Riady's business career. In the 1996 presidential campaign, James Riady was a major campaign contributor to the Democratic Party. In 1998, the United States Senate conducted an investigation of the finance scandal of the 1996 U.S. presidential campaign. James Riady was indicted and pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations by himself and his corporation. He was ordered to pay an 8.6 million U.S. dollar fine for contributing foreign funds to the Democratic Party, the largest fine ever levied in a campaign finance case.[6][7][8][9]

KPPU Bribery Scandal[edit]

In 2008, Riady's close business associate Billy Sindoro, an executive of Riady's Jakarta-based First Media, was filmed handing bribes to officials of Indonesia's anti-monopoly agency, the KPPU. Riady and First Media were then in a business dispute with a Malaysian company and the KPPU was deliberating that dispute. Sindoro was later found guilty of corruption. In December 2008, the Riady-owned Jakarta Globe published a sympathetic portrait of Sindoro in prison where he lamented he would not be able to spend Christmas with his family.

Obama Visa Waiver[edit]

In January 2010, the Washington Post revealed how the 'disgraced' Riady had received a visa waiver by the Obama Administration to re-enter the US, despite having been banned by the Bush administration. Riady's old friend, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton claimed she had no knowledge of the visa waiver. A State Department official, embarrassed by the Post's revelation, said "the reality of his past remains a significant obstacle for future travel to the United States." Riady received a waiver from a rule that forbids entry to foreigners guilty of "a crime involving moral turpitude," a term that government lawyers generally interpret to include fraud. [3]

James Riady lives with his family in Lippo Village, Karawaci, surrounded by security aides. He has been demonized by the media because of his involvement in the campaign financing scandal. Hendardi, an Indonesian human rights activist, once stated that Riady's "major achievement was to export corruption to the U.S."[4]

Evangelical activities[edit]

Since converting to Christianity in 1990, Riady has been an avid evangelical. He has established foundations, charities and Christian-inspired schools to spread the message in Muslim-majority Indonesia. Inevitably, his zeal has clashed with Muslim fundamentalists in the country. On 23 July 2001, Fortune published an interview in which he espoused his vision of converting poor villages to Christianity.[10] The second biggest Muslim organization in Indonesia, the 28-million-strong Muhammadiyah, quickly assembled mass protests and demonstrations against him.[citation needed].

Under the organization Yayasan Pendidikan Pelita Harapan, Riady helped to establish a Christian university named Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH). He recruits students from all around Indonesia to attend the school's "Teachers College" (TC) on a scholarship program, training them to be teachers and sending them out to bring education to the remote areas of Indonesia. Graduates of Teachers College are often placed in schools owned and run by the organization: Sekolah Pelita Harapan, Sekolah Dian Harapan, and Sekolah Lentera Harapan. He is involved quite personally in this particular college, enforcing a strict code of discipline as well as requiring these students to attend weekly chapel and his own church. He is well-known at the university for his sermons at weekly chapel, in which he focuses extensively on a chapter-by-chapter exegesis of Romans. Riady adheres to Reformed theology, often referred to as Calvinism.

Arts interests[edit]

James is a serious collector of paintings and is known to have spent millions of dollars for a single work of art that he likes. Part of his vast collection can be seen on display in the UPH Painting Museum located on the 3rd floor of Matahari Towers in Lippo Karawaci. It stores more than 700 paintings by both prominent national and international painters including Raden Saleh, Affandi, A. Sudjono, Barli, Wakidi, A.D. Pirous, Widayat, Zaini, Srihadi Soedarsono, Agus Djaya, Trubus, Mochtar Apin, Sudjana Kerton, Ivan Sagito, But Mochtar, Hendra Gunawan, Dede Eri Supria, Nasiah Djamin, Walter Speis, R. Bommet, Willem Dooijewaard, J.D. Van Herwerden, etc. (Ovuvwevwevwe, Kacrut, 2016)[citation needed]


James Riady lives in Karawaci with his family. He is married to Aileen Hambali, and they have six children altogether: Caroline Riady Djojonegoro, John Riady, Jeffrey Riady, Stephanie Riady, Kerinton Liyanto, and Henry Riady. His father is Mochtar Riady, a prominent Indonesian businessman. [11]


  1. ^ Suryadinata 1995, p. 136
  2. ^ a b Mydans, Seth (Oct 20, 1996). "Family Tied to Democratic Party Funds Built an Indonesian Empire" (The New York Times). Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Riady or not? (Jan–Feb 1997)". Mother Jones.
  4. ^ Behar, Richard (July 23, 2001). "The Year Of Laying Cable Dangerously Two men from opposite worlds, both caught in the Clinton scandals, forge a troubled partnership in Jakarta". Fortune Magazine.
  5. ^ "Tight-knit Riadys show talent for survival," Ben Bland, Financial Times, Oct. 14, 2013. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9377b9a4-00e3-11e3-8918-00144feab7de.html#slide0
  6. ^ "The Democratic Fund-Raising Flap: Cast of Characters", CNN.com, July 1, 1997
  7. ^ "Clinton Donor Pleads Guilty", CBSNews.com, March 20, 2001
  8. ^ James Riady Pleads Guilty, Department of Justice, press release, Jan. 11, 2001
  9. ^ Woodward, Bob, "Findings Link Clinton Allies to Chinese Intelligence", Washington Post, Feb. 10, 1998
  10. ^ Behar, Richard. "The Year Of Laying Cable Dangerously Two men from opposite worlds, both caught in the Clinton scandals, forge a troubled partnership in Jakarta". Fortune. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  11. ^ personal relationship


  • Suryadinata, Leo (1995), Prominent Indonesian Chinese: Biographical Sketches (3rd ed.), Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, ISBN 978-981-3055-04-9.

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