Forestry corruption spirals
since ‘05

The money laundering watchdog said Wednesday suspicious transactions linked to the forestry sector soared in 2005, the year the government began its campaign against illegal logging.  

The Indonesian Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) said it found the highest number of dubious transactions involving law enforcers — including local forestry officials — took place between 2006 and 2007.

 “The highest number of suspicious transactions took place between 2006 and 2007. Since then they have declined, with less than 10 cases in 2009,” PPATK chairman Yunus Husein said. He did not give details of the number of suspicious transactions before and after 2005.

He also declined to elaborate whether the government’s sustainable forest operation had triggered the rise.     
The agency, he said, had reported its findings to the National Police and Attorney General’s Office.

He made the statement while meeting with Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan and the Judicial Mafia Taskforce at the Forestry Ministry Wednesday. The meeting is part of the government’s plan to expose judicial mafia in the forestry sector.

Taskforce chairman Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said they would start probing alleged forestry crimes by examining large illegal logging cases whose investigations had been halted.

“We come here to get your permission since the taskforce will conduct checks to weed out forestry corruption so you will not be surprised later [by our findings],” he told Hasan in an open discussion on Wednesday.

Kuntoro said he would inform Zulkifli if the taskforce would take action against the ministry officials.

Secretary of the taskforce, Denny Indrayana, said the team would first focus on  illegal logging mafia in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

“We have conducted a review into illegal logging cases that have been halted. We will reopen them to see who is responsible [for the crimes],” he told reporters before the meeting.

Minister Zulkifli said his office was ready to provide data needed by the taskforce to enforce the law to protect the country’s ailing forests.

 He said that over 2 million hectares of forest had been illegally converted into oil palm plantations without permits from the ministry.

“We have mapped the areas of illegal plantations operating in forest areas. We are ready to provide all of our data in support of the taskforce’s investigations,” he said.

He also warned that any delay in legal procedures against illegal oil palm plantations could result in further accelerating damage to forests.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the taskforce to target corruption in the forestry sector, including illegal loggers, to help protect the nations forests.

Indonesia, the world’s third largest forest nation with 120 million hectares, has promised to cut deforestation rates to meet the target of a 26 percent  cut in emissions by 2020.

Deforestation, mainly due to forest conversions to accommodate plantations and agriculture, continues at an alarmingly high rate in Indonesia.

The government said deforestation rates were still more than 1 million hectares per year.

Deforestation results in the destruction of carbon sinks and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which exacerbates global warming.

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