LONDON: 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.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and its 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 seizure of, and subsequent investigation into, 384 containers (6,489.28m3) of illegal merbau wood by Indonesia’s Directorate of Forest Protection earlier in 2019, of which 81 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). The High Court this week upheld the original district court ruling to the full extent.
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.”
A reliable judicial process is essential to strengthen the SVLK and lead to a more robust system, thereby enhancing the future credibility of licenses issued under the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan.
CONTACTS FOR MEDIA
- Thomas Chung, EIA Forests Campaigner, via thomaschung[at]eia-international.org
- Paul Newman, EIA Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]eia-international.org
- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants, pangolins and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
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