Sunday, 23 August 2009

Police Reveal Alleged Wood-Smuggling Syndicate

Jakarta Globe, 23rd August

Farouk Arnaz

(to see a photo of the ship please click on the link at the end of the article.)

Sampit, Central Kalimantan. The National Police have seized 12 ships with around 6,600 cubic meters of timber, thought to have been logged illegally, that was to be smuggled from Kotawaringin Timur district in Central Kalimantan to Java.

Speaking at the crime scene, Brig. Gen. Suhardi Alius, head of the special crimes directorate at the National Police, said that the operation had been authorized by National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri.

“Last week we dispatched 55 police officers directly from Jakarta instead of having this case handled by local police,” he said, adding that the value of the seized timber was estimated at Rp 36 billion ($3.6 million).

He said National Police officers became involved in the operation due to suspicions that local police lacked independence in their handling of the case.

“We will take measures against any officers, including local police officers, who we find have colluded with illegal loggers and are currently also under investigation,” he said.

Police have at least nine possible suspects for issuing falsified documents.

The syndicate’s modus operandi, Suhardi said, was to issue forged documents to prove the legality of the wood’s origin, claiming that the timber came from production forests where the government has granted concessions for logging, known as HPH, to private companies.

The documents state that the timber came from forest areas managed by PT Kayu Tribuana Rama and PT Berkat Cahaya Timber .

“After we investigated, we found that of all the documents were fake,” Suhardi said.

Police Chief. Comr. Jusman Aer told the Jakarta Globe that each ship carrying the wood had to pay at least Rp 100 million in bribe money to local officers.

“The modus operandi is the same as a logger-smuggler syndicate that we already unveiled in Ketapang, West Kalimantan,” Jusman said, referring to last year’s operation in which police arrested members of an illegal logging operation tasked with bribing local authorities, such as police and forestry service officer s.

However, Yanto, a ship crew member, claimed he was unaware that the wood he carried on his ships might have been illega lly logged.

“I don’t know about the bribe money, either. My duty is only to transport this ship to Gresik, East Java,” he said, adding that he received Rp 160,000 for every cubic meter of timber on his ship.

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