Former Indonesian REDD+ negotiator arrested on corruption charge

/ Rhett A. Butler

Wandojo Siswanto, one of the lead negotiators for Indonesia's delegation at last year's climate talks in Copenhagen and a key architect of its Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program, has been arrested and charged with receiving bribes.

Wandojo Siswanto, one of the lead negotiators for Indonesia’s delegation at last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen and a key architect of its Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program, has been arrested and charged with receiving bribes.

Wandojo, who is being held in Jakarta, was questioned this week by investigators from Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). He is accused of receiving a bribe of about $10,000 from Anggoro Widjojo, a director of PT Masaro Radiokom, to win favorable treatment in the Ministry of Forestry’s budget for the telecommunications company. Wandojo has been named in at least two other corruption probes, including a 2008 case where he admitted to taking a Rp 50 million ($4,600) kickback from lawmaker Al-Amien Nasution.

Under examination, Wandojo maintained his innocence, saying he was only taking orders from his superiors, namely the former Minister of Forestry, Malam Sambat Kaban, who was examined as a witness.

“We believe in the presumption of innocence. In my opinion, my client was not guilty,” Syaiful Dinar, Wandojo’s attorney was quoted as saying by “He [Wandojo] is being sacrificed by people whose names will come out in the proceeding.”

Wandojo was removed as a Special Advisor to the Minister of Forestry last month.

Nevertheless, the charge raises troubling questions about the capacity of Indonesia’s forestry ministry to manage potentially billions of dollars of payments under the proposed REDD program, which aims to reduce Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions by shifting its development model away from one that consumes forests to one that protects forests. Several governments—including Norway, which has already committed up to a billion dollars—are supporting the initiative.

Concerns over the fate of Indonesia’s REDD funds have been raised before. Critics cite the country’s reforestation fund, which lost $5.25 billion between 1994 and 1998, according to Ernst and Young audit. The fund was managed by the forestry ministry.

Chandra M. Hamzah, deputy chairman at the KPK, told Reuters in September that the forestry sector is “a source of unlimited corruption.”

According to Reuters, the KPK has spent two years investigating allegations surrounding the PT Masaro Radiokom radio procurement project for the Ministry of Forestry, which “led to state losses of at least 70 billion rupiah ($7.75 million).”

Wandojo has been one of several figures in the investigation. In August the Corruption Court convicted Anggodo Widjojo — the brother and business partner of PT Masaro Radiokom’s Anggoro Widjojo — for attempting to bribe officials from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) with as much as Rp 5.1 billion ($566,000) in an attempt to get it to drop a corruption case against his brother. Anggodo Widjojo was sentenced to four years in prison, while his brother has been at-large since August 2008, according to the Jakarta Globe.

Kaban, the forestry minister from 2004 to 2009 and a legislator from 1999-2004, is also a person of interest in the case. Kaban has been linked to several other corruption cases, including bribe-taking for issuance of forest concessions, according to the Jakarta Post.

But like Wandojo, maintains his innocence. Speaking with the news media after being questioned by the KPK, Kaban stated, “With respect to the radio communications system, I stated that the procurement process was normal and in accordance with existing procurement procedures… I don’t know anything at all about the flow of funds.”

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