Rogue Traders - The murky business of merbau smuggling in Indonesia

Rogue Traders - The murky business of merbau smuggling in Indonesia

, 5 August 2010







The murky business of merbau smuggling in Indonesia
A detailed expose of some of the key players behing Indonesia's illegal timber trade.
Click here for the full report.


Groups Urge Action Against Top Actors in Illegal Logging

, 5 August 2010


Environmental groups on Thursday urged the government to arrest two businessmen allegedly involved in smuggling rare timber from Papua to China.

“We want more action to be taken against these people because we believe that the issue of illegal logging has not really been touched,” said Julian Newman, campaign director of the Britain-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

Newman said local authorities had only arrested chainsaw operators, truck drivers and other “low-level men,” rather than high-level illegal logging operators. “We’d want to see some action on that,” he said.

In an investigative report, the EIA and an Indonesian group, Telapak, said two businessmen were illegally exporting merbau logs to China, India and South Korea.

According to the report, in mid-October in 2009, customs officers in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, discovered 23 containers carrying 400 tons of merbau logs allegedly belonging to one of the businessmen.

It alleged that the containers were shipped from Makassar, South Sulawesi, where the businessman “runs a massive merbau timber company.”

The other businessman was described as an “old player” in the merbau timber-smuggling business who had received a special government dispensation to export the rare and slow-growing tree species to China in 2008.

The report, “Rogue Traders: The Murky Business of Merbau Timber Smuggling in Indonesia,” was released after detailed and undercover investigations by the environmental watchdogs starting in 2005.

Indonesian laws only allow the export of semi-finished wood products, but the groups claim the two businessmen illegally exported rough-sawn timber.

Newman said merbau timber could fetch about $1,000 per cubic meter in China, while the logs could be obtained for Rp 3 million each ($335) from local brokers.

“Those businessmen could actually face charges under the Forestry Law and could be locked up in jail for 10 years, ” he said.

Merbau is endemic to Papua, and is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Papua has the last remaining intact merbau forest in the country.

Hapsoro, program director at Telapak, said the government should list merbau in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna so to help it limit the trade in the species.

“That does not necessarily mean banning all trade in merbau. But it would limit how much merbau could be traded because we are losing billions of dollars here,” he said.

Newman said China, one of the biggest importers of merbau timber, should also sanction illegal traders. “It is not up to Indonesia alone. It is also up to China, which is wide open to importing illegally logged timber,” he said.