Indonesian cop is jailed for eight years for major timber smuggling racket
LONDON: Timber-smuggling Indonesian police officer Labora Sitorus has been jailed for eight years after a legal appeal overturned the shockingly lenient verdict handed down earlier this year by a court in West Papua.
Low-ranking Sitorus was originally charged with illegal logging, fuel smuggling and money laundering but the Sorong-based officer was in February found guilty of just one charge – illegal logging – and was sentenced to just 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 appeal filed by the Prosecutors trying the case has now led to Sitorus being convicted of money laundering and jailed for eight years by the High Court of Jayapura, Papua, on May 2.
In May 2013, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released video footage 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.
In releasing the footage, EIA called on the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) – Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission – to investigate police corruption in the case, following the earlier collapse of similar cases of police involvement in illegal merbau trade in West Papua.
Faith Doherty, EIA Forest Team Leader, today welcomed the stiffer penalty: “Finally, the court has responded as it should. This allows for the authorities to seize the assets of both Sitorus and his company.
“In September 2013, when prosecutors were given the police dossier that allowed Sitorus to be charged, the issue of corruption was conspicuous by its absence. However, this new verdict will allow the authorities to investigate the entire criminal syndicate, including the 33 police officers whose bank accounts were originally featured in the dossier.”
The Sitorus case has cast significant doubt on the effectiveness of Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system, intended to eradicate illegal logging in the country and maintain access to environmentally sensitive markets which have banned illegal timber imports, such as the EU, USA and Australia.
Doherty added: “Police corruption has long facilitated the looting of Indonesia’s forests and undermined efforts to reform the timber trade. For more than a decade, EIA has campaigned for rigorous enforcement and the prosecution of rotten apples such as Labora Sitorus.”
Interviews are available on request: please contact Faith Doherty via firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0) 20 7354 7960.
1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
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