Indonesian police officers grilled in illegal logging case

Other News Materials 9 April 2008 10:38 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - More than a dozen senior police officers have been grilled for their alleged roles in illegal logging in West Kalimantan province on the Indonesian portion of Borneo island, local media reports said Wednesday.

National police chief General Sutanto had vowed to take legal action against any police officer involved in illegal logging or log smuggling in the country.

"We want to deal with illegal logging activities conclusively. Whoever is suspected to be involved will be investigated," the state-run Antara news agency quoted Sutanto as saying.

At least 14 police officers in West Kalimantan province were being held at the national police headquarters in Jakarta for questioning, he said.

"The investigations are being conducted by the National Police general supervisory inspector," Sutanto said, adding that they were questioned on suspicion of having colluded with log smugglers in West Kalimantan.

Sutanto, who like many Indonesians goes by only name, said he supported the forestry ministry's plan to cooperate with neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia, in an attempt to stop log smuggling from the country.

West Kalimantan police last month named 26 people as suspects in illegal logging cases, including 14 boat crew members, six officers of the Ketapang transportation service, eight illegal log owners - with two of them still at large - and one mediator between illegal logging financiers and loggers.

Police continued their manhunt for four Malaysians who have been named suspects in connection with illegal logging in West Kalimantan province.

In March, police seized around 12,000 cubic metres of illegal logs worth about 208 billion rupiah (22.6 million dollars), which were about to be smuggled to Malaysia from the province's Ketapang district, the report said.

According to the environmental watchdog Greenpeace, Indonesia had the world's fastest rate of deforestation between 2000 and 2005, with the equivalent area of some 300 football pitches cut down every hour. Deforestation is regarded as the main factor for Indonesia turning into the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared a crackdown in 2005 against deforestation in the country, and promised harsh penalties for officials involved in illegal logging which has been blamed to have triggered flash floods and landslides in several regions in the country.