The Jakarta Post
The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry revealed on Monday that it had frozen the operation of six large fishing companies for various illegal practices, including giving false reports on their catches to the government.
The ministry has also revoked the companies' commercial business licenses (SIUP), banning them from any fishery activities. The actions were reported to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo on Monday.
'The President is also concerned to see how we are rich [in maritime resources] but our fishermen cannot benefit from this. It is foreigners who always benefit from it,' Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti told reporters after meeting Jokowi at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.
Among the suspended companies are PT Maritim Timur Jaya (MTJ) in Tual, Maluku; PT Dwikarya Reksa Abadi in Wanam, Papua; PT Indojurong Fishing Industry in Penambulai, Maluku; PT Pusaka Benjina Resources in Maluku and PT Mabiru Industry in Maluku.
According to Mas Achmad Santosa, head of the task force for the prevention and eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, those companies have large fleets and have committed serious violations. 'For example, Pusaka Benjina Group are facing legal action for their [alleged role] in human trafficking,' he said.
PT Pusaka Benjina Resources, a joint venture between Thai and Indonesian companies, is at the center of the recently exposed case of slavery in Benjina, Maluku, in which the company is suspected of having tricked hundreds of workers into forced labor.
A government investigation revealed that at least 1,456 crew members, comprising 1,205 foreigners and 251 Indonesians, were forced to work for long hours with no pay. Although most of the workers possessed Thai documents, many said they hailed from Myanmar and Cambodia.
'[The case of] Pusaka Benjina Resources has been submitted by us to the police and their permit has been revoked. However, we have been told that Roy Setiawan [Pusaka Benjina Resources production manager] is still involved in processing at the company's factory,' Susi said.
Besides slavery, other illegal practices committed by the companies include poaching and tax evasion.
Dwikarya, for example, has previously been identified by the ministry as having an extensive record of noncompliance with the authorities.
According to Susi, the company has 200 ships in its fishing operation. 'But only 68 of them have fishing permits,' she said.
Susi added that Dwikarya had failed to properly report its revenue to the government. 'In terms of tax [issues], we've handed over [the matter] to the Finance Ministry for them to follow up,' she said.
Among the tax-related crimes are evasion of import and export duties on fish and fish products transported across national borders, fraudulent claims for VAT repayments, failure to account for income tax on the profits from fishing activity, evasion of income tax and social security contributions and false claims for social security benefits by fishermen and their families, disguising the origin of fish and under-declaration of catches.
'In regard to that, the ministry is working together with the Finance Ministry to increase the capacity of tax examiners, tax auditors and tax crime investigators in fisheries,' Susi said.
Besides freezing the six companies, the ministry will also sink 19 more foreign vessels that were fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.
The director general of maritime resource and fishery supervision at the ministry, Asep Burhanuddin, said the 19 ships were among a total of 73 foreign vessels that had been processed in accordance with Indonesian law.
'Of the 19 ships that will be sunk, 13 are in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, five in Merauke, Papua, and one in Belawan, North Sumatra,' he said.
Of the 13 vessels located in Pontianak, 11 belong to Vietnamese fishing companies and two belong to Thai companies.
Since January the ministry has investigated more than 2,000 local and foreign ships in Indonesian waters and 73 were found to have fished illegally.
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