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Former cop to face charges in illegal logging scandal, Indonesian police say

Labora Sitorus, a former police officer accused of running a nearly $150 million illegal logging ring in Indonesian New Guinea, faces charges of money laundering, illegal logging and fuel smuggling, a police spokesman said in Jakarta on Friday.

Police in Indonesia’s Papua province submitted Labora’s case to the prosecutor’s office on Friday, the Jakarta Post reported. Labora was arrested on May 20, after an investigation by the Indonesia Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) identified more than Rp 1.5 trillion ($146 million) in suspicious financial transactions and linked his company, PT Rotua, to the seizure of 115 containers of illegally-logged merbau timber.

“We have questioned 39 witnesses in the fuel smuggling case, 67 witnesses in the illegal logging case and 28 witnesses in the money laundering case,” National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto said in Jakarta on Friday, as quoted by the Jakarta Post.

Lowland rainforest in Indonesian New Guinea.

Shortly after Labora’s arrest in May, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released a video taken in 2009 showing loggers felling trees on Batanta Island in Raja Ampat, Papua. The loggers told EIA their operation was illegal and said they were supplying timber exclusively to Labora. In a press release accompanying the video, the London-based environmental watchdog urged the Indonesian government to fully investigate and prosecute the case. The failure of a previous case of police involvement in illegal logging – the acquittal of Papua Police Comr. Marthen Renouw, who was charged in 2006 for taking bribes to protected illegal loggers – raises concerns that Labora may get off lightly, EIA said in its May 30 release.

Agus said on Friday that Labora would be charged under Indonesia’s 1999 law on forestry, as well as Papua’s 2001 special autonomy law and a 2010 law on money laundering. If found guilty, he will face a maximum of seven years in prison, the Jakarta Post reported on Friday.

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