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Tackling forestry corruption in Indonesia

Lessons from KPK prosecutions

The Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission has successfully prosecuted more than 600 defendants in corruption cases since 2004, but only about 5% of these defendants were charged for offences related to the forestry sector. The Indonesian government has initiated various preventive policies to reduce rapid deforestation and preserve the sustainable allocation and use of land. However, the prosecution of corrupt acts has fallen short of indicting the involved companies and seizing all proceeds of crime.

Also available in Indonesian
12 November 2020
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Tackling forestry corruption in Indonesia

Main points

  • By 2016, the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had brought 30 defendants to court for abuse of power and/or bribery in the issuance of forestry licences in six cases spanning four of Indonesia’s 34 provinces. All defendants were found guilty on at least one charge. Over the next four years, the KPK only prosecuted one additional case related to the forestry sector, despite the sector’s vulnerability to corruption and its importance to the Indonesian economy and people’s livelihoods.
  • The average and median sentence of imprisonment was about five years, but only a small fraction of the established losses to the state and of benefits resulting from fraudulent licensing was recovered. No money was recovered to compensate for environmental damage.
  • The companies that benefited from these corrupt acts have faced no legal consequences. Companies that have encouraged or condoned corrupt behaviour should be held accountable, and the licences they obtained illegally should be revoked.
  • The KPK should set an innovative precedent for Indonesia’s law enforcement institutions by embracing a courageous and coherent strategy of prevention and enforcement in the natural resources sector. Such an approach must be enabled by a robust information- and knowledge-sharing infrastructure.
  • The verdicts of Indonesian courts, including the anti-corruption courts, have always been difficult to access, even by the justice sector institutions themselves. Only the KPK enforcement department seems to have a full set of all verdicts in its cases. These are simple image scans of the original verdicts and cannot be digitally searched. All verdicts should be made publicly available in OCR (optical character recognition) format to allow for systematic and efficient analysis.

Cite this publication

Schütte, S.; M. Syarif, L.; (2020) Tackling forestry corruption in Indonesia. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2020:15)

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About the authors

Dr. Sofie Arjon Schütte leads U4’s thematic work on the justice sector, including specialised institutions like anti-corruption agencies and courts. Previously, she worked for the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia and the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission and has conducted workshops and short-term assignments on corruption in more than 15 countries. She is editor of the series of U4 publications on anti-corruption courts around the world.

Laode M. Syarif

Dr. Laode M Syarif is Executive Director of the Partnership for Governance Reform. He was the Commissioner of Indonesia Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) from 2015 to 2019. Before he joined the KPK, Dr. Syarif was a Senior Lecturer at Hasanuddin University, Faculty of Law, Makassar, Indonesia. He taught Environmental Law, International Environmental Law, and developed Anti-Corruption and Environmental Law Clinics in several Law Schools in Indonesia. He also served as one of the principal trainers of the Supreme Court of Indonesia in the area of Environmental Law and Judicial Code of Conduct since early 2000. He published on the issue of transboundary pollution, environmental law, and anti-corruption.


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