‘Follow the money’
in forest crimes

Indonesia’s failure to slow illegal logging stems from weaknesses in the 1999 Law on Forestry, which focuses on investigation of illicit timber sources and not on the people who order and benefit from forestry crimes, officials said.

The country’s anti-logging campaign should focus on the finances of illegal loggers and investigate suspicious financial transactions in the forestry sector.

“‘Follow the money’ should be the new paradigm in investigating forestry-linked crimes,” said Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) representative Gunadi said during a seminar in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The seminar was organized by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

PPATK chairman Yunus Husein previously said suspicious transactions linked to the forestry sector soared in 2006 and 2007 after the government began a campaign against illegal logging.

Law enforcement faced difficulties in targeting the main actors behind illegal logging because of the weak law, said Hamzah Tadja, a representative of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

“It requires law enforcement to find material evidence of illegal logging,” said Hamzah, who is the AGO’s deputy attorney general for general crimes.

Law enforcement focuses too much on seeking physical evidence of illegally-felled trees, which means they can only catch field operators who lack licenses to cut or to transport trees, he added.

Hamzah said implementation of the law on forestry must be complemented by the use of the anti-money laundering law to allow law enforcement agencies to trace the proceeds of forest crimes.

KPK deputy chairman M Jasin said that the laws on corruption eradication and money laundering should be applied so police can arrest main actors behind illegal logging.

Much of the ‘forest mafia’s’ involvement in illegal logging took place before the Judicial Mafia Taskforce started investigating forestry crimes, taskforce member Mas Achmad Santosa said.

During the seminar, a senior researcher from CIFOR, Topo Santoso proposed an integrated law enforcement approach (ILEA).

“The ILEA aims to promote coordinated legal enforcement among major actors in the forestry sector to curb forestry crime, corruption, and money laundering,” he said.

CIFOR research explored banking policies against laundering money from the proceeds of illegal logging and related crimes.

Bank Indonesia’s 2009 regulation on money laundering and terrorism financing requires that banks implement due diligence measures on customer transactions.

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

Indonesia is the world’s third largest forested nation with 120 million hectares of forest.

More than one million hectares of forest are destroyed every year, mainly due to forest conversions to accommodate plantations and agriculture, as previously reported.

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan previously said that more than 2 million hectares of forest had been illegally converted into oil palm plantations without permits from the ministry.

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