Saturday, 12 July 2008

Minister, regent named in forestry case

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Minister, regent named in forestry case

Andreas D. Arditya , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Tue, 07/08/2008

A witness has implicated Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Ka'ban and Bintan Regent Ansar Ahmad in the case of alleged bribery over a forest conversion permit, for which suspended regency administration secretary Azirwan is on trial.

Sagita Haryadin, an investigator with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), told the court Monday the defendant Azirwan had mentioned the minister in at least three tapped telephone conversations.

Azirwan is currently standing trial for allegedly paying United Development Party lawmaker Al Amin Nasution more than Rp 3 billion (US$327,000) in bribes to secure permission from the House of Representatives to convert part of a conservation forest.

The KPK has discovered that Hilman Indra, a deputy chairman of House Commission IV on forestry, agriculture and fisheries, was the first to ask for the illegal payment.

"But Hilman found it difficult to contact Azirwan, so Amin took over," Sagita said.

In a conversation that took place on Nov. 14 last year between Azirwan and an unidentified woman, Azirwan said he was planning to pay Rp 2 billion to the House members and Rp 1 billion to the minister.

The defendant admitted to the Corruption Court the male voice in the conversation was his.

The KPK said that on that evening Azirwan met with Amin at a five-star hotel in South Jakarta. He asked for the House's approval for the conversion and promised to prepare Rp 2 billion for the lawmaker.
On the same evening, Azirwan made another telephone call to an unidentified man.

"They are probably going to take me to meet Pak Ka'ban," he is recorded as saying in the conversation.

"Then what else do you want?" says the other man.
"Nothing, the matter's settled," Azirwan replies.

In a telephone call recorded on Jan. 30 this year, Azirwan said he was done with the forestry minister but was having trouble finding additional money for the House members, who were demanding Rp 3.6 billion.

Azirwan said in the conversation that the regent, Ansar, told him he could not afford to provide extra money and asked Azirwan to think about it later.
In another conversation, Azirwan said Amin played golf with Ansar and promised to provide Rp 3 billion to the House members.

Last year, the Bintan regency planned to convert 200 hectares of a total 7,300 hectares of conservation forest into an office complex for the administration as part of the construction of the regency's capital, Bandar Seri Bintan.

The general procedure for forest conversion requires any land conversion request to be recommended by the regional administration to the forestry minister.

The minister then requires approval from Commission IV before issuing a ministerial decree concerning the conversion.

Ka'ban said earlier this year that the ministerial approval of the forest conversion was legitimate and warned the KPK to not meddle in the legal decision.

Two KPK investigators, Amir Arif and Agung Budi, who also testified Monday, said that before the arrest, Azirwan and Amin met with two other Commission IV lawmakers, Sujud Sirajuddin and Syarfi Hutauruk, at a bar in Jakarta.