Archive | December 2012

Indonesian court fines palm oil giant for tax evasion

Channel News Asia

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Supreme Court ordered a major palm oil company to pay more than $390 million to the state for tax evasion, a judge said on Friday, in a case likely to set a precedent in the graft-ridden nation.

The court found Asian Agri and more than a dozen of its subsidiaries guilty of “deliberately not filling tax forms properly between 2002 and 2005”, marking the country’s first prosecution in a major corporate tax case.

Head judge Djoko Sarwoko told AFP said the company was ordered to pay back state losses of 1.26 trillion rupiah ($130.5 million) and was fined an additional 2.52 trillion rupiah to be paid within a year.

The case is seen as breakthrough in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, where sweeping tax reforms introduced in recent years have been met with hostile resistance from big business.

Sarwoko said that the ruling – made on December 18 but only publicised this week – would set a precedent for at least nine major tax crime cases in the pipeline.

Asian Agri is one of Asia’s biggest palm oil producers, exporting three million tonnes of palm oil in 2011 with more than 160,000 hectares of plantations on the island of Sumatra, according to its website.

It is a subsidiary of Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), a Singapore-based conglomerate of palm oil, pulp and oil and gas firms owned by Sukanto Tanoto, Indonesia’s seventh-richest tycoon, according to Forbes.

Environmental groups have also long accused RGE’s pulp and paper company Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL) of logging on protected carbon-rich peatland in Sumatra.

The Asian Agri case began in 2006 when a former financial controller at the company accused of embezzling money from the firm reported that the company had evaded tax.

The case was thrown back and forth between the Tax Office and the Attorney-General’s Office, raising criticisms that government institutions and law enforcers were reluctant to address major tax crimes.

“Big multi-national companies are not unattached to political and business operations. That’s why tax cases have proceeded at a snail’s pace,” Firdaus Ilyas from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) said.

Ilyas said that ICW research showed resource-based companies were the most likely to evade tax in Indonesia.

A report released this month by Washington-based Global Financial Integrity ranked Indonesia ninth for illicit financial outflows among the world’s developing nations, losing $109 billion in crime, tax evasion and corruption between 2001 and 2010.

Transparency International ranks Indonesia 118 in its transparency index, one of the lowest of 174 countries, assessed on par with Madagascar and Egypt.

– AFP/de

 

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Save Orangutans and The Tripa Peat Swamp Forest

December 2012: The Sumatran orangutan is losing habitat fast. Pristine forest in Indonesia is being carved up, set on fire and converted into palm oil plantations at a shocking pace. The drive for profit is seeing palm oil companies also move into areas of protected forest – like the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest in Aceh. Home to many iconic species, including the densest population of the last remaining 6,600 Sumatran orangutans, Tripa is also a critical carbon storehouse for the planet.

The destruction of Tripa is having disastrous consequences: for the wildlife and biodiversity which is perishing with it, for the local communities whose livelihoods depend upon it, and for all the rest of us as carbon emissions escalate. Tragically, over 80% of orangutans in Tripa forest are estimated to have perished as a result of this habitat destruction.

But in a case that could make history, two palm oil companies are now facing court for operating illegally in Tripa. The tireless efforts of local and international NGOs have pushed this issue forward and it is about to become a real test case for Indonesia. If the law is upheld and the law-breakers are punished then there is hope for protecting other areas of forest in Indonesia in the future. If not, the law loses even more ground and greed gets the green light. International public pressure is urgently needed to help uphold Indonesia’s environmental laws and to take a stand against this blatant exploitation for the benefit of so few. Please add your voice and help show that the world is watching this case.

What you can do right now:

1. Sign this petition to demand that the law be upheld in the Tripa case:
http://www.change.org/saveTripa2

2. Find out more and donate to the campaign at:
http://www.sumatranorangutan.org/

3. Like and Share this video as widely as possible.

PRESS RELEASE: Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest

PRESS RELEASE

14/12/2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION

Walhi makes historic legal intervention as rogue palm oil company tries to sue Governor of Aceh over cancellation of controversial palm oil permit in Tripa Peat Swamp Forest

[Banda Aceh]  In an unprecedented legal move, on Thursday 13th December in the Administration court of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Walhi Aceh (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) motioned to join the Governor of Aceh Province as a co-defendent in a lawsuit brought against him by palm oil company PT. Kallista Alam, whose controversial palm oil concession in the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh he recently cancelled after law courts found clear legal infractions in the issuance of its plantation permit.

“WALHI’s move to intervene like this is the first ever of its kind in Indonesia, and serves to emphasise just how serious we are in our support for the Governor’s strong stance in upholding the law against illegal permits in the province”, stated Walhi Aceh Executive Director, TM Zulfiker. “In regard to the intervention”, he continued, “WALHI indeed have a serious interest in this case and wish to be represented in court. We must ensure the Administrational Court in Banda Aceh fully understands the legal processes that have led to this new case being filed, in particular the course of events that followed after Walhi won the appeal in its case against the company at the Administration Court in Medan, which led directly to the Governor taking action and revoking the company’s permit”.

Luhut MP Pangaribuan, head of the legal team representing PT Kallista Alam, objected to the motion, stating that WALHI Aceh have no interest in the case but Zuhri, the lawyer working for WALHI Aceh, immediately refuted this, stating that  “The motion to join the case is based on the legal precedent and actions of the case filed by WALHI against the previous Governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, and  the company PT Kalista Alam, for legal irregularities in the now revoked permit. The permit was revoked by Aceh’s current Governor, Zaini Abdullah, after a court order requesting him to do so was issued by the Administration Court in Medan. This is precisely why we wish to stand by that decision and support the Governor for taking the correct legal course of action in revoking the permit”.

Today there are several ongoing legal cases related to the company PT Kallista Alam, as explained by Kamaruddin, a lawyer representing Tripa Community. “Firstly, there was the original case filed by WALHI Aceh against the company and former Governor for the issuance of the illegal permit. In this case, the judges in the administrational court of Medan agreed with WALHI Aceh, that there were indeed a number of legal infractions in the issuance of the permit. It was this decision that resulted  in the current Governor cancelling the permit. Now the company is attempting to appeal this earlier decision with the Supreme Court in Jakarta”.

“Secondly, and in a separate case, PT Kallista Alam is attempting  to sue the new Governor over the permit’s cancellation in the administrational court of Banda Aceh, even though it was revoked in full compliance with the law, as clearly demonstrated by the judges decision in the case described above. It is this new lawsuit in which WALHI is seeking to intervene and join, as a co-defendant standing alongside Governor Zaini Abdullah.”

 “Thirdly, also in a seperate case, the Ministry of Environment and the Attourney Generals Office are taking legal action against the PT Kallista Alam for legal infringements in the field, at the district court of Meulaboh, in West Aceh.”. Kamaruddin went on to explain, “the main problem for all of us is that whilst these lengthy court battles are ongoing, the destruction of the unique Tripa peat swamp forests by Kallista Alam and other companies is continuing unchecked. All of the companies in Tripa are still actively commiting crimes in the field, and PT Kallista seems to be deliberately trying to prolong proceedings and slow down the cases against them”.

As the court was settling for Tuesday’s hearing in Banda Aceh, an angry protest was heard outside the courtroom, “PT Kallista Alam has destroyed Tripa and is selling out our country”, Fery, a protester from the coalition of students and community for Tripa, shouted through a megaphone to a mob of over 50 university students who had gathered, chanting, singing and carrying placards, to affirm their support for Aceh’s Governor and his stance against law breakers.

“It’s blatantly obvious there have been numerous crimes committed in Tripa relating to spatial planning law, environmental law, and forestry plantation law. There have also been clear breaches of the Indonesian Government’s moratorium on new plantations in primary forests and peatlands, which resulted from the billion dollar agreement between Indonesia and Norway”, stated Deddy Ratih, Spatial Planning Campaigner for WALHI Indonesia. “While WALHI is taking action in support of Aceh’s Governor, illegal actions in the field must also be halted by direct intervention of the police and both Provincial and National Government. Even today, despite all the legal wrangling in the courts, canals continue to drain the last of the life from Tripa’s protected peat swamps and PT Kallista Alam is simply playing games, as it tries to prolong and delay implementation of the law. The reality is that every day plantation activities in the field are slowing killing Tripa. All of the companies operating there must be reviewed and have their permits cancelled if they are not in full compliance with the letter of the law. Activities must be stopped and all drainage canals blocked immediately if this critically important and unique ecosystem  is to have any chance of recovery”.

“No matter what the eventual outcomes of the various legal process taking place, it will all be meaningless unless strong and decisive action is taken right now on the ground, all the permits should be revoked immediately and work begin to restore the damaged areas”, he reiterated.

Public information on the appeal lodged by PT Kallista Alam with the Supreme Court is limited, and a decision on whether the appeal will be allowed to proceed or not is considered likely to take place ‘in camera’ (behind closed doors).

For further comment or information please contact:

Deddy Raith – ube.hitar@gmail.com

Spatial Planning Campaigner, Walhi Indonesia (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)

Yuyun Indradiyuyun.indradi@greenpeace.org

Political Campaigner, Greenpeace Indonesia

Video Reveals Rare Tiger Cubs in Sumatran Forest

One of the tiger cubs caught on camera. CREDIT: The Zoological Society of London

One of the tiger cubs caught on camera.
CREDIT: The Zoological Society of London

Our Amazing Planet

A camera trap caught video of a mother tiger and her two cubs in a protected Sumatran forest, the first evidence of breeding in this location, conservationists say.

The footage was captured in Sumatra’s Sembilang National Park. Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have documented evidence before of the endangered species in nearby Berbak National Park.

The video of these big cats shows the mother and her two youngsters walking past the camera. Scientists said they estimate the cubs are less than a year old, according to a ZSL release.

“This is the best early Christmas present, and we are absolutely delighted to find the first evidence of breeding in Sembilang,” said Sarah Christie, ZSL head of regional conservation programs, in a statement. “We will continue working with leaders of both national parks as well as the government to ensure the areas are better protected and well patrolled.”

watch the video here

The finding gives scientists some hope; there are only 300 Sumatran tigers, the smallest of the tiger species, estimated to be in the wild, according to the release. Camera traps have also caught video of tapirs and sunbears in the nearby Berbak forest.

Sembilang and Berbak National Park are some of the only places in the world where these tigers remain, according to the release.

Reach Douglas Main at dmain@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @Douglas_Main. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook and Google+.

District court of Meulaboh delay Kallista hearing for the second time

Rebecca (rightn), Firman (middle) and Alfian (left), lawyers of PT. Kalista Alam during civil court session at the Destrict Court of Meulaboh.

Rebecca (rightn), Firman (middle) and Alfian (left), lawyers of PT. Kalista Alam during civil court session at the Destrict Court of Meulaboh.

Kallista Alam’s Lawyers Without Power of Attorney, the Court Session Postponed For the Second Time

Firman Hidayat – The Globe Journal

Meulaboh – Civil case trial between the Ministry of the Environment contesting PT. Kalista Alam on the case of clearing by burning in Tripa Peat Swamp allegedly done by PT Kalista Alam was held at the District Court of Meulaboh on Wednesday (12/12/12). The agenda of this second court session focused on the identity verification of both involved parties.

The panel of judges chaired by Rahmawati SH had again to postpone this court session, since the lawyers of PT. Kalista Alam failed to submit a written power of attorney for being the legitimate lawyers of the company. The court session was held only for 15 min. starting from 12.10 WIB on Wednesday afternoon.
Rebecca, one of the lawyer or legal advisor of PT. Kalista Alam, said after the court hearing to The Globe Journal that her lawfirm was only assign verbally to legally represent PT. Kalista Alam in this case. “We were notified verbally for being the legal representatives,” she said.
Asked about the reason of their absence during the first court session, she said that they were still doing the preparation, besides of not having the mandate, they are still also studying the lawsuit. “We are ready for the third court session,” said Rebecca assisted by her colleagues Alfian and Firman.
Without approriate identity of PT. Kalista Alam’s lawyers, the civil court session on the case of clearing by burning in Tripa Peat Swamp was again postponed to the coming January 7, 2013.

 

REDD+ Indonesia – Tripa a Catalyst for Change

Indonesia plans to use Rawa Tripa in its westernmost province of Aceh, where the country had a recent victory in peatlands protection, as learning grounds to improve forest governance and legal enforcement through license review.

This video gives description about the collaborative coordination between NGO’s, Local and Central Government efforts to reduce deforestation and forest which took swift actions.

Training orangutans in the wild

 

Hotli Simajuntak | The Jakarta Post

 

Two modified jeeps were passing a steep hillside in the pine forest of Jantho, Aceh Besar, with roaring engines laboring along a high and muddy ascent. Each of the cars carried two iron cages with four orangutans.

The jeeps of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) were on a mission to deliver the four orangutans to the orangutan quarantine center in Jantho recently.

“This road has purposely not been asphalted to prevent illegal loggers and hunters from entering this forest conservation zone,” said Asril, an SOCP staff member.

The four orangutans to be sent to Jantho came from the quarantine center in Batu Mbelin in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, which is also managed by the SOCP. “As these orangutans are of Aceh origin, we’re releasing them in the Aceh forest,” Asril said.

It took about four hours to cover a distance of only 12 kilometers. The Jantho reserve quarantine  was built in 2011 as a temporary accommodation center for Aceh’s orangutans seized from private individuals.

The area is a well-equipped complex that works to support the reintroduction of orangutans to nature. Normally these protected primates undergo fairly long training before their eventual release in the wild.

Apart from being a quarantine and reintroduction station, the location also functions as a research center to study orangutan behavior under SOCP staffers. Some personnel are in charge of watching over and training the orangutans in their natural environment.

“As they have been raised by men for a long time, the orangutans here are completely unfamiliar with living in the wild,” said Damson Siahaan, an orangutan trainer. He said he had gotten very close to the animals he had handled so far, occasionally even treating them like his own children.

“We should treat them with tender loving care,” said Damson, who has trained orangutans for over nine years. He previously worked with the orangutan rehabilitation center in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi. His dedication as a trainer led to his assignment to the Jantho reserve.

I will follow: An orangutan follows the instruction of a trainer in the wilderness so that the animal can get used to the forest environment.

I will follow: An orangutan follows the instruction of a trainer in the wilderness so that the animal can get used to the forest environment.

According to Damson, the orangutans under his care are usually so tame that they will have problems when they are released into the  forest. The problem most frequently found is that, after getting used  to living with humans, the orangutans are incapable of feeding themselves and building nests.

“They will likely be unable to survive in nature if they’re just released without proper training to get back to the wilderness,” Damson cautioned. It takes one to three months to train an orangutan so that it is adapted back to nature. In the process of reintroduction, the animals are monitored and fed before they are able to seek fruit on their own.

“When tame orangutans are already able to live independently, they mostly won’t return to the quarantine center and will gradually join the wild ones in their natural habitat,” noted Damson.

Besides those confiscated from private collectors, the orangutans handled by SOCP are also obtained from evacuations after their habitats are destroyed by forest conversion into oil palm estates.

“When reclaiming land for oil palm estates, their owners sometimes don’t care about the presence of wild animals like orangutans,” said Ian Singleton, director of SOCP.

One of the zones severely damaged, consequently destroying orangutan habitats, is Rawa Tripa in Southwest Aceh. The reclamation by burning forestland has caused many orangutans to be trapped amid ravaged marshes. “We’ve several times evacuated orangutans with injuries from this area,” Singleton said.

Before building the Jantho reserve orangutan release station, the SOCP released all the seized orangutans in Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi in cooperation with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) in Germany. A total of 150 orangutans have been released since 2003.

With the new reintroduction station in Aceh, all the orangutans found in Aceh province will be returned to the Aceh forest. “We’ve managed to release 34 orangutans in the wild since March 2011,” said Singleton.

In the dark: SOCP staff members eat at the orangutan reintroduction camp in the Jantho forest reserve in Aceh.

In the dark: SOCP staff members eat at the orangutan reintroduction camp in the Jantho forest reserve in Aceh.

Orangutans (pongo abelii, pygmaeus) are rare and protected primates living in the forest zones of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Based on data from the Orangutan Information Center, their population is estimated at less than 30,000 in the two regions, with wild orangutans in Sumatra numbering between 6,500 and 7,500, and in Kalimantan between 12,000 and 13,000.

– Photos by JP/Hotli Simanjuntak