Indonesia — The trial of a major illegal logging and corruption suspectopened Wednesday at the Medan District Court in North Sumatra. Financialdirector of PT Keang Nam Development Indonesia, Adelin Lis, is accused ofviolating corruption and forestry laws in relation to an illegal logging case inMandailing Natal regency. If found guilty, the suspect could be sentenced tolife in prison.
In a 60-page indictment, Adelin is accused of illegal logging and illegallycollecting timber products in areas outside the company’s concession, from 2000to 2005. The prosecution say his actions caused the state Rp 119 billion andUS$2 million in financial losses.
Representatives of several non-governmental organizations attending the trialobjected to these figures, which they said were too low. They accused prosectursof deliberately presenting lower figures to help Adelin avoid a life sentence.Activist Syamsul Arifin also claimed several illegal logging suspects related toAdelin’s activities had gone free because of weak indictments.
“We’re worried that Adelin will also walk since the prosecutor’s indictmentis weak, especially regarding the amount of state losses.” Syamsul said anaudit by the Development Finance Comptroller and the State Ministry for theEnvironment found Adelin’s activities over this five-year period caused Rp227.682 trillion in losses to the state.
Prosecutor Edwar Kaban defended the level of state losses in the indictment,saying they were based on expert calculations. He also denied the prosecution’s indictment was weak, saying the defendant had been charged forviolating multiple laws.
“Under the Corruption Law, if proven guilty, the defendant could serve lifein prison, while under the Forestry Law he could receive 10 years,” Edwarsaid.
The defendant’s lawyer, Hotman Paris Nasution, said if anything his client wasguilty only of administrative errors, not criminal violations.
“My client should not be indicted on criminal charges since the violationis only administrative in nature. The right thing to do is to just pay back all the state losses,” Hotman told The Jakarta Post after the trial session.
Presiding judge Harwan Byrin, who is also the chief of the Medan District Court,adjourned the trial until June 28, at which time the court will hear from thedefense.
Adelin was handed over to the Attorney General’s Office by the IndonesianEmbassy in China last September after being arrested in Beijing.
Keang Nam and Inanta Timber are among dozens of plantation and timber companiesaccused of widespread illegal logging across North Sumatra. Many of thesecompanies have also been blamed for starting forest and ground fires, sending anannual haze over parts of Indonesia and neighboring countries The IndonesiaForum for the Environment (Walhi), a leading environmental watchdog, said theseplantation companies produced an average of more than 40,000 fire hotspots peryear on Sumatra.