UPDATED: On-the-run timber crime cop surrenders
UPDATED March 7, 2016: EIA has learned in the past few hours that Labora Sitorus has now surrendered. A watching brief is being maintained on the case.
.Corrupt Indonesian policeman Labora Sitorus, jailed in 2014 for 15 years for large-scale timber theft, is once again on the run.
Sorong Police and Justice & Human Rights Ministry officials went to the former Chief Brigadier’s home for an arranged transfer to a prison in Jakarta but found him gone.
A total of 683 officers from West Papua police had joined officials to pick him up on Friday (March 4) but were told he had left the evening before and nobody knew of his whereabouts.
This is not the first time Sitorus has ridiculed due legal process; he was first given permission to leave Sorong prison in March 2014 to seek medical attention but never returned. After being placed to a list of West Papua’s most-wanted, police found and re-arrested him in February last year.
He was then allowed to leave prison in October 2015 to undergo treatment at a local hospital after a reported stroke and heart problems. During this time he was said to be living at home and enjoying a normal life, including attending family festivities as well as a wedding in December 2015.
The transfer of Sitorus to Jakarta was for health reasons so he could be treated while serving time.
EIA Forest Campaign Team leader Faith Doherty said: “This has now become a farce of the highest magnitude. Indonesian officials and the rogue police officers who benefit from a corrupt system are making the country a laughing stock.
“Labora Sitorus had bank accounts containing up to Rp1.5 trillion and was found guilty in a court of law of the very serious charges of illegal logging, fuel-hording and money laundering. Whoever is harbouring him is effectively complicit in these crimes.
“For all those who have risked their lives investigating this policeman and his criminal syndicate, and for all those champions within Government, including the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK), to have this thrown in their faces again is unacceptable.”
“This man is a crook and should be behind bars.”
.The Sitorus case has played out like a black comedy from the start.
Following a legal wrangle over a startlingly lenient first verdict handed down early in 2014 by a court in West Papua, State prosecutors appealed to Indonesia’s Supreme Court and in September 2014 Sitorus was sentenced to 15 years and ordered to pay Rp5 billion in fines.
However, when the state prosecutor’s office sought to formally execute the Supreme Court’s verdict, Sitorus not actually in Sorong Prison.
Prison head Maliki Hasan reportedly stated Sitorus was allowed to leave the facility to seek medical treatment in March 2014 but did not return.
The corrupt lawman was originally charged with illegal logging, fuel smuggling and money laundering but was originally found guilty of just one charge – illegal logging – and sentenced to a mere two years in prison with a US$4,000 fine.
He was acquitted of money laundering, despite evidence showing US$127 million passed through his accounts.
An initial appeal filed by prosecutors led to Sitorus being convicted of money laundering and jailed for eight years by the High Court of Jayapura, Papua, on May 2, 2014.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released video footage, above, in May 2013 of illegal loggers harvesting merbau and other species for Sitorus’ timber company, PT Rotua, from forests on Batanta island in the ecologically outstanding Raja Ampat archipelago of West Papua – a potential World Heritage site candidate.
PT Rotua also reportedly received timber from the forests of Sorong, Aimas, Bintuni and other regions of West Papua.