Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Ex-forestry ministers scheduled to testify

JAKARTA (JP): Former forestry ministers Hasjrul Harahap and Djamaludin Suryohadikusumo are scheduled to testify as witnesses on Thursday in the multimillion dollar graft trial of timber baron Mohamad "Bob" Hasan at the Central Jakarta District Court.

"They will get their chance to tell their side of the story. What prosecutors want to know is what were the roles they played in the case," chief prosecutor Arnold Angkouw told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

"Former officials testified in the initial court session that based on the recommendations of these two ministers, the ministry awarded the defendant's company with two different mapping projects, both of which were fraudulent."

Arnold was referring to the indictment that defendant Hasan had defrauded the state of US$75.62 million and the Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires (APHI) of another $168 million through two fraudulent aerial mapping projects.

The first project in 1989 involved the mapping and shooting of aerial photographs of 88.63 million hectares of forest concessions, belonging to 599 concessionaires.

The defendant, who chaired APHI from 1989 to 1998, initially granted this project to PT Adikarto Printindo (AP) in 1989, a firm whose shares he eventually bought in full and whose name he changed to PT Mapindo Parama (MP) in 1991.

The former director general of forestry inventory and planning, Soenarsan Sastrodimitro, told an initial court hearing that he had done his best to coax Hasjrul -- who served as a minister in former president Soeharto's fifth development Cabinet from 1988 to 1993 -- to grant the project to more than one firm.

"Hasjrul Harahap ordered me to recommend only one firm -- the defendant's firm -- for the project, despite the firm's obvious inability to complete the project single-handedly," the witness, who served from February 1989 until June 1993, told the hearing.

Hasan, witnesses said, granted the project to Adikarto Printindo without the presence of other APHI executive board members, which was a requirement in any decision taken by APHI.

Another violation of the law, prosecutors pointed out, was that the permit issued by the Ministry of Forestry for the 1989 project was only for the mapping and shooting of aerial photographs of concessions belonging to 81 of the 599 companies, or 8.85 million hectares of forest concessions.

The rest were never authorized by a forestry ministry permit.

"Adikarto Printindo was only one firm. I recommended 18 reputable consulting firms, including Printindo, (to the minister), but the minister picked only Printindo," Soenarsan said.

The second project, which was begun in 1996, was worth $87 million and involved shooting aerial photographs of 30.6 million hectares of protected forests nationwide.

Another former director general of forestry inventory and planning, Sumahadi, said at Tuesday's hearing that the project was awarded to PT Mapindo Parama, on former forestry minister Djamaludin's recommendation to former president Soeharto.

Mapindo Parama, after having received the $87 million as payment for the project, he said, provided the ministry with old aerial photographs, dating back to 1992, of two million hectares of the total 30.6 million.

Prosecutors have charged that the old photographs were of forest concessions -- not protected forests -- taken by the defendant's firm during its work for the 1989 mapping project.

Sumahadi also said he had accepted the old aerial photographs -- which led to the disbursement of $87 million of reforestation funds as payment for Mapindo Parama -- because he considered the photos "technically usable". (ylt)