Saturday, 10 May 2008

Riau regent accused of stealing Rp 1.2t

Riau regent accused of stealing Rp 1.2t

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Sat, 05/10/2008 10:34 AM Headlines

The Corruption Court began Friday the graft trial of Pelalawan (Riau) Regent Tengku Azmun Jaafar who was accused of stealing Rp 1.2 trillion (US$130 million) in state funds.

In their indictment, state prosecutors accused the defendant of receiving money for issuing illegal authorization letters to 15 companies to utilize more than 120,000 hectares of forest resources in the regency.

Azmun issued the letters in December 2002 and January 2003 to the companies, seven of which were established by his relatives and cronies, prosecutors said.

None of these seven firms met the criteria necessary for forestry enterprises in terms of financial or technical qualifications.

The prosecutors, M. Rum, Riyono, Siswanto and Andi Suharlis, are charging Azmun with misusing authority for personal gain, which violates two articles of Law No. 31/1999 on Corruption Eradication. The crime carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Since the issuance of the letters, Azmun had received more than Rp 19 billion from the companies, prosecutors told the court. Azmun's brother, Tengku Lukman Jaafar, who was involved in establishing some of the companies in 2001, earned more than Rp 8 billion.

A total of Rp 840 million also went to three officials at Riau Forestry Agency, namely agency head Asral Rachman and deputy heads Fredrik Suli and Sudirno. The three were all allegedly involved in approving the procedural letters for the authorization.

The case also involved PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) general manager Rosman who is still at large.
Rosman was allegedly involved in the takeover of six of the seven companies belonging to Azmun's families and cronies by a subsidiary of RAPP, PT Persada Karya Sejati, soon after the permission letters were issued.

According to the prosecutors, RAPP gained more than Rp 930 billion from the exploitation of forest resources on the land it was indirectly allocated.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Azmun a suspect in August last year and has detained him since December.

Last month, KPK questioned Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Kaban in connection with the case. Kaban said Azmun had misused the authorization letters which had been given the companies authorization to manage empty land, instead of protected forest.

KPK is currently handling at least three cases involving misuse of authority related to forest land management.

Lawmakers Al Amin Nasution and Sarjan Taher are two other suspects allegedly involved in separate illegal conversion of forest land in Bintan, Riau and Banyuasin, South Sumatra, respectively.

KPK Deputy Chairman Haryono Umar said Friday the anti-graft body would analyze whether there were any flaws in the forestry regulation which could have aided the graft.

"We will look deeper into the matter. If eventually we find problems in the regulation, we will fix it, soon," he said. (dre)