The Jakarta Post
The Trenggalek Police in East Java have arrested a fellow officer for his alleged complicity in the theft of sonokeling (rosewood) logs on a state-owned road in Tulungagung regency.
Police general crimes unit head Comr. Adj. Sumi Andra said the officer, identified only as Chief Brig. S., was declared a suspect after legal procedures were followed.
“We have established S. as a suspect. This has been an upsetting turn of events since S. is a member of the force,” Sumi said on Monday.
He said S. allegedly aided in the illegal logging of rosewood trees by acting as a security officer during the felling, since every logging activity in the region must be closely guarded and approved by law enforcement officers.
The combined value of the 89 stolen rosewood trees is estimated to be at least Rp 2 billion (US$155,840).
S. reportedly received financial reward for his complicity, he said.
Last week, local police arrested four people on suspicion of involvement in the rosewood theft. The suspects include an employee of the National Road Agency (BBPJN) in Kediri, East Java – identified only as K. –and a former employee, identified only as T.
Previously, the head of the Environmental Education Center (PPLH) Mangkubumi in Tulungagung, M. Ichwan Mustofa, said he and several government officials had agreed to form a special team to investigate reports of illegally felled rosewood trees in the regency.
“The special team of investigators – which includes representatives of the East Java Forestry Agency, the Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BBKSDA), the BBPJN and PPLH Mangkubumi – found that 89 rosewood trees had been illegally felled, comprising 53 in Tulungagung and 36 in Trenggalek,” Ichwan said.
He went on to say that the suspects had falsified permits for trimming overgrown branches that they said endangered motorists. Instead of trimming the branches, the suspects cut down entire trees, he added.
People who witnessed the logging saw that uniformed people, including police, guarded the activity, which led them to believe that the alleged thieves had forged permits. He did not specify the number of police officers the witnesses said they saw.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) classifies rosewood as an endangered species.
Because of its rarity, rosewood is a highly prized commodity of which the financial value surpasses that of teakwood, Ichwan said.
Sumi said the suspects would be charged under multiple laws, including those concerning natural resources conservation, theft and permit forgery.
Earlier, Ichwan said a report had been receive on 91 missing sonokeling trees. The number was later revised to 89.
He went on to say that the special team would immediately investigate the case in the field. Data from the investigation would be compiled into a single report that would serve as the basis for further legal decisions, he said.
On April 3, the East Java Forestry Agency head conducted a field inspection in Tulungagung.
“We have thieves in our midst. We will have to first verify to whom this road belongs,” agency head Dewi Putriatni told the media. (rfa)