Sunday, 30 August 2009

Police Detain Four Illegal Loggers

August 30, 2009

Nurfika Osman The Jakarta Globe

The National Police this past weekend detained four of twelve suspects believed to be part of a wood-smuggling syndicate in the Kotawaringin Timur district of Central Kalimantan Province. The four are owners of illegal sawmills and investors who finance cutters to fell trees illegally.

“They are going to be sent to National Police headquarters immediately for trial in Jakarta,” said Brig. Gen. Suhardi Alius, the head of National Police’s Special Crimes Directorate, adding the suspects had put the police in conflict with impoverished tree fellers.

“They put us in conflict with poor tree fellers, making it appear as if we steal their income when we conduct our operations against illegal logging,” he said. The modus operandi of this syndicate was different than that of previous illegal logging operations in that this group issued false documents for their timber, identifying it as legal.

“They also falsified the species of the timber, claiming it was [fast-growing] sengon timber whereas it was in fact bengkirai [ironwood], a more expensive species,” he said. The operation was authorized by National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri.

Last week, the National Police seized 12 ships carrying approximately 6,600 cubic meters of timber thought to have been logged illegally that was to be smuggled from Kotawaringin Timur to Java. The value of the seized timber was estimated at Rp 39 billion ($3.9 million).

Due to suspicions that local police might lack independence in their handling of the case, 55 police officers were dispatched directly from Jakarta.

Experts say Kalimantan has been experiencing a rapid rate of deforestation over the last 25 years. Currently it is estimated that 1.48 million square meters of forest is lost in the region every hour.