Monday, 30 March 2009

Police hunt down illegal logging syndicate

Indra Harsaputra , THE JAKARTA POST , Surabaya | Mon, 03/30/2009

East Java Police are hunting down members of an illegal logging syndicate who have been targeting teak forests in Lumajang.

The crime has caused the state to suffer billions of rupiah in losses.

These illegal logging practice in Lumajang have been taking place for years. The stolen logs being sold to furniture producers in Pasuruan.

Widespread illegal logging activities, according to data from the Lumajang regency administration, have led to the disappearance of up to 116 out of 480 water sources in the regency, due to environmental damage.

An officer of the local detection and crime unit, Adj. Sr. Comr. I Nyoman Komin, said that the police had so far arrested one illegal logging gang boss identified only by his initials (SHS) and one of his employees, (WH), on March 6, 2009.

The two have been named suspects, and detained under Article 50 Paragraph 3 of Law No. 41/1999 on forestry, Nyoman said, under which the two faced imprisonment of up to 10 years and fines of up to Rp 5 billion.

When the employee was arrested he was about to transport 15 logs worth Rp 600 million (US$50,000) by 14 trucks, he said.

"SHS (the boss) has admitted to have acted as the buyer of the stolen logs. He has been doing this since 2006, making billions of rupiah from criminal activities," Nyoman said on Friday.

Nyoman said that the police confiscated the trucks used to transport the stolen logs as well as two large chainsaws and two hand chainsaws, all retained as evidence.

"The police are also hunting down other members of the illegal logging syndicate in Lumajang, possibly involving other big bosses," he said.

According to I Nyoman, SHS admitted he and other syndicate members illegally felled trees in forest areas in Payun Kelopo, Watu Gedhek and Romo Pandan. Sometimes they also stole logs from Pasuruan and Malang, he said.

"The harvested logs were usually placed in man-made ponds and when the time was right were mixed with logs harvested by local residents which were then sent to the warehouse of the CV SRA company," he said, without giving further details about this firm.

Nyoman continued that the stolen logs were then sold to a furniture making center in Pasuruan. A teak log of the best quality could be sold for Rp 8 million per cubic meter.

"Part of the evidence confiscated from SHS is piled up in warehouses belonging to the furniture producers in Pasuruan. But the police could not do anything about this because parts of the logs had already been made into furniture," Nyoman said.

Many furniture producers said they were not aware that the logs supplied by SHS were illegal because the latter managed to falsify documentation on the origin of the logs indicating they were harvested from production forests, he added.