Corrupt Indonesian timber company boss jailed for five years and fined more than $180,000

A high court in Indonesia has upheld the conviction, jail term and substantial fine of a major corrupt timber trader.

The relatively severe punishment is the first of its kind in the Indonesia timber sector, where major players routinely escape legal sanction.

We and our Indonesian partner Kaoem Telapak today welcomed the judgement as a significant blow against illegal logging in the region.

Ming Ho, the director and owner of Alco Timber Irian and Sorong Timber Iriana, was originally found guilty and sentenced in October last year.

His jail term and fine were this week confirmed at the end of an appeal heard at the Jayapura High Court.

The activities of Ming Ho were first exposed by EIA during investigations into the illegal logging and trafficking of precious merbau wood from Indonesia in 2012-13.

Thomas Chung, EIA Forests Campaigner, said: “EIA and Kaoem Telapak have been investigating and exposing merbau theft and illegal trade for the past two decades, publishing reports such as Rogue Traders, which named two of the kingpins in Indonesia behind the trade.

“This work led directly to the criminal case against corrupt Indonesian policeman Labora Sitorus back in 2012-13, in which Ming Ho had previously been named as a major player.”

Abu Meridian, of Kaoem Telapak, added: “We welcome the ruling against a major player in the criminal exploitation and destruction of the Indonesian Forest and commend the actions taken by the Indonesian authorities.”

The case against Ming Ho arose from the 2019 seizure of 384 containers (6,489.28m3) of illegal merbau wood, 81 of which were ascribed to Alco Timber Irian and Sorong Timber Iriana, both companies run by the accused as part of the Alco timber group.

In the judgement handed down by the district court in Sorong on 23 October last year, Ming Ho was found guilty, sentenced to five years in prison and fined 2.5 billion IDR (approx. $183,171).

Chung added: “The successful enforcement actions and resulting prosecution highlight the vital importance of continued vigilance and good governance in the timber trade sector.

“The prosecution of Ming Ho should also serve as a reminder that Indonesia’s national timber legality system (the SVLK) cannot be regarded as the final step in the fight against illegal logging – robust enforcement and a strong judicial process are also essential.”