Indonesia — Law enforcement agencies and ministries have applied multiple laws to net dozens of companies accused of being involved in forest fires, illegal logging and mining activities in protected forest areas.
Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the Presidential Working Unit for Supervision and Management Development (UKP4) said that cooperation between the National Police, the Environment Ministry, the Forestry Ministry, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) was needed to support the government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions under the REDD+ programme.
The government has pledged to cut emissions by 26 per cent by 2020 with a disbursement of Rp 83 trillion (US$6.82 billion) from the total state budget, around 14 per cent of which will be allocated to the forestry sector.
“We hope that these law enforcement agencies can cooperate in tackling crimes in the environment and natural resources sector in Aceh and Riau, as well as in Central and West Kalimantan,” Kuntoro said during a press conference at the UKP4 office on Wednesday.
Through the cooperation, initiated by UKP4 last December, at least nine companies in Central Kalimantan, eight companies in Riau, two companies in Aceh and four companies in West Kalimantan are now facing legal action for allegedly violating articles under the Forestry Law, the Environmental Management and Protection Law as well as the Plantation Law.
The PPATK is now also investigating 101 bank transactions involving 27 individuals as well as companies connected to police officer Labora Sitorus, who held suspicious bank accounts containing over Rp 1 trillion, believed to be the proceeds of illegal logging and fuel smuggling.
“We haven’t estimated the total potential state loss resulting from these cases. However, we will follow up these cases, as they could lead to other types of crimes, including money laundering,” National Police criminal investigations division (Bareskrim) chief Insp. Gen. Suhardi Alius said.
Suhardi said that the police did not rule out the possibility of investigating regional officials as well as ministry officials for their alleged involvement in the crimes, usually in relation to issuing permits. “We are still conducting further investigations regarding the matter,” he said.
Forest and land fires have become a serious issue for Indonesia because the smoke from the fires has previously spread to neighbouring countries. In June, the slash-and-burn fires caused severe haze that blanketed Singapore and Malaysia. Indonesians living near the blaze also suffered.
As previously reported, a Malaysian citizen, Danesuvaran K. Singam, general manager of PT ADEI Plantation and Industry (AP), was detained last week for his alleged responsibility for a forest and peatland fire in Pelalawan regency, Riau.
The special crime directorate has also named PT AP managing director Tan Key Yong, also a Malaysian citizen, a suspect in the forest and peatland fire case.
Both suspects face a maximum 15-year prison sentence and a fine of Rp 15 billion for violating Articles 98 and 99 of Law No. 32/2009 on environmental protection and management and Articles 48 and 49 of Law No. 18/2004 on plantation.
The Environment Ministry’s deputy on environmental law management Sudariyono said that out of eight companies believed to be responsible for the forest and peatland fires in Riau, only PT AP was handled by the Riau Police, while the rest were handled by the ministry.
“We are still conducting investigations on the rest of the companies,” Sudariyono said.