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Five defendants tried for fraudulent CPO export licenses

Jakarta Globe - August 31, 2022

Muhammad Aulia, Jakarta – A district court in Jakarta on Wednesday began the graft trial against five defendants including a renowned market analyst and a former international trade director general accused of fraudulent conduct in issuing permits for crude palm oil exports that inflicted trillions of rupiah in state losses.

Prosecutors said the illegal exports have contributed to cooking oil shortage in domestic markets and caused an estimated loss of Rp 18.3 trillion to the state budget and the national economy.

The five defendants include:

  • Indra Sari Wisnu Wardhana, former director general of international trade, the Trade Ministry
  • Lin Che Wei, renowned market analyst
  • Master Parulian Tumanggor, commissioner of Wilmar Nabati Indonesia
  • Stanley MA, manager of Victorindo Alam Lestari
  • Pierre Togar Sitanggang, general manager of Musim Mas

"The defendants have committed to and conspiring in unlawful acts to enrich themselves, other people, or corporations," the Central Jakarta District Court heard.

Indra helped several CPO producers obtain export permits from the ministry when edible oil was scarce and expensive, according to the indictment read in turn by prosecutors.

On the other hand, CPO producers that have been granted the export license ignored the obligation to allocate a minimum of 20 percent of their export volume for domestic sales, a condition that has to be met by CPO export license holders.

Because of the cooking oil shortage and soaring prices, the central government was forced to spend Rp 6.1 trillion on a cash aid program for 20.5 million low-income families from April-June, prosecutors said.

CPO exporting companies meanwhile enjoyed an unfair advantage from the price difference between export and domestic markets estimated at Rp 8,509 per liter between January and March.

The indictment mentions a number of companies and CPO conglomerations that have been granted export licenses by Indra, including Permata Hijau Group, Wilmar Nabati Indonesia, Multimas Nabati Asahan, and Musim Mas.

Wilmar Nabati and four subsidiaries earned Rp 1.7 trillion in revenues from CPO/cooking oil exports, Musim mas and five subsidiaries got Rp 626.6 billion, and four companies under Permata Hijau Group reaped Rp 124 billion, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors relied on state auditors and a study by a team of Economy and Business Faculty, Gadjah Mada University, to estimate state losses and damaging impacts from the illegal exports.

Presiding judge Liliek Prisbawono Adi said he has received a list of 192 witnesses to testify in court but the number could be reduced by selecting only competent witnesses for an efficient trial.

Muhammad Lutfi

An attorney for one of the five defendants said after the hearing that former trade minister Muhammad Lutfi was at the center of "confusing export regulations" that led to criminal charges against CPO producers.

"The person responsible for this is the trade minister," said lawyer Juniver Girsang who is hired by Master Parulian.

Lutfi was the trade minister when the export licenses were issued early this year before he was succeeded by Zulkifli Hasan in June.

Lin Che Wei, an independent analyst at consulting firm Research and Advisory Indonesia, told prosecutors he couldn't understand the way prosecutors calculated the estimated state losses.

Lin, who joined the advisory team for the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy, also said he was only a part of the assisting team that became a discussion partner when the Trade Ministry planned to issue export licenses on CPO and its derivative products.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/five-defendants-tried-for-fraudulent-cpo-export-license