Demands to Scrutinize Forestry Crimes

Selasa, 29 Oktober 2013 | 10:33

An antigraft watchdog has urged Indonesian law enforcement institutions to strengthen their fight against crimes in the nation’s forestry sector.The call came after Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) released a report that showed potential state losses from such crimes totaling Rp 691 trillion ($62 billion) between 2011 and 2012.

Lalola Estele, a researcher with ICW, said the total losses had been calculated from 124 cases of forest crimes recorded by the watchdog from 2011 to 2012.

“The crimes vary from forest conversion, for example the one million hectares of palm oil projects. The second is the illegal use of forest products. The third is tax evasion, for example in the case of Asian Agri,” Lalola said at the ICW headquarters in Jakarta on Sunday.

Lalola emphasized that the problem pointed to the weak law enforcement efforts in charging the corporations involved in the foul play.

According to the organization, of the 124 cases, police had only charged 37 field operators in 20 cases, and a small percentage of company directors and legislators from the House of Representatives in six of the cases.

As such, ICW called on Indonesia’s law enforcement institutions to implement the money laundering law and the anti-corruption law in charging companies, which would make the companies and not just their officials liable to criminal charges.

“The forestry and plantation law doesn’t recognize the act of charging a corporation. That’s why most of those who are charged are individual actors in the field and not the companies,” Lalola said.

ICW’s report reflects the grim reality of prevalent crime in the nation’s forestry industry over recent years.

In August, the University of Indonesia branch of the People For Indonesian Judicial System (MAPPI) organization claimed that potential state losses in a corruption case involving Burhanuddin Husin, the former head of Kampar district in Riau province and the former chief of Riau’s forestry office, could reach up to Rp 687 trillion.

Burhanuddin was found guilty in October 2012 and sentenced to two years and six months in prison, in addition to Rp 100 million worth of fines, for practices of corruption in approving annual working plans for 14 companies in Pelalawan and Siak subdistricts during his time in office between 2005 and 2006.

The court had deemed the licenses invalid as they failed to comply with Forestry Ministry policies because they included swaths of natural forest.

According to Muslim Rasyid, coordinator of the Riau Forest-Saving Network (Jikalahari), the approval of the companies’ permits had subsequently resulted in the deforestation of 38,357 hectares of land, which, with thorough calculations, could see up to Rp 687 trillion of wasted state losses. That amounts to more than the Rp 519 billion calculated by prosecutors from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in Burhanuddin’s case.

Meanwhile, in June, the names of several high-profile public officials surfaced in a forestry corruption case in West Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and South Sumatra, which allegedly cost Rp 1.92 trillion worth of potential state losses.

“Three ministers [are said to be involved], as well as five other regional chiefs or former regional chiefs, one ministerial adviser, one regional government adviser and six company directors,” Tama S. Langkun from the Anti-Judicial Mafia Coalition, who is also director of investigation with the ICW, said in June.

However, Tama refused to disclose the names of the 16 individuals involved in the case, but promised to submit the list of names to the KPK.

“We will guarantee that these names will be submitted to the KPK,” he said, as quoted by

The 16 individuals are alleged to be involved in five different cases of corruption, including an alleged corruption case at a state-run sugar cane plantation in South Sumatra with Rp 4.8 billion worth of potential state losses, as well as alleged corruption in the conversion of forest areas into oil palm plantation in Kapuas Hulu district in West Kalimantan, with potential state losses of up to Rp 108.9 billion.

Separately, a case of illegal logging activities also surfaced earlier this year, involving low-ranking police officer First Insp. Labora Sitorus from West Papua’s Sorong district, which further damaged the police’s efforts against forest crimes.

Labora was arrested in May after police revealed that the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog, had traced transactions worth Rp 1.5 trillion ($134.8 million) passing through his bank accounts between 2007 and 2012.

The money was believed to be linked to his alleged fuel smuggling and illegal logging activities, for which evidence included 115 shipping containers bound for China — traced to one of Labora’s companies, Rotua — holding a total of 2,264 cubic meters of merbau wood, a rare hardwood prohibited for commercial logging and for export as rough-sawn timber.

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) earlier in May released video footage of illegal loggers harvesting merbau and other species for Rotua from forests on Batanta Island in the Raja Ampat district of West Papua, an ecologically important area with high levels of plant and animal biodiversity.

Rotua has also been reported for receiving timber from the forests of Sorong, Bintuni and other regions of West Papua, the EIA said.

According to the EIA, Labora’s network transferred approximately $100,000 to the National Police headquarters in Jakarta and a similar sum to the Papua province police chief.

The use of the money laundering law in fighting crime in the nation’s forestry sector is considered important as such practices are often used to clean up the trail of dirty money, according to ICW.

“Many of the business licenses issued in the forestry sector involve corruption, and the results from such practices would get cleaned up through money laundering,” Lalola said.

She highlighted that in the case of Burhanuddin, the court’s failure to charge the companies involved had resulted in an inadequate seizure of assets.

“Institutional crime policies have existed in Indonesia since the 1950s and are regulated in the anti-corruption law, money laundering law and others, but law enforcement officers remain reluctant in using them,” she said.

By Novianti Setuningsih