Police arrest Kalimantan palm-oil tycoon Budiono Tan
12 January 2015
The Jakarta Post
The West Kalimantan Police have arrested palm-oil tycoon Budiono Tan, who allegedly misappropriated 1,535 land certificates of oil-palm farmers in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.
The businessman, who runs a plantation through PT Benua Indah Grup (BIG), was caught on Friday night in West Jakarta after being sought for five years.“The dossier [for his case] has been completed and he has been arrested but has not responded to summonses,” West Kalimantan Police chief Brig. Gen. Arief Sulistyanto said on Sunday.
The West Jakarta Police worked with the West Jakarta Police to find Budiono. He is currently in the process of being transferred from Jakarta to Pontianak, West Kalimantan, for prosecution.
Budiono was placed on the police’s most-wanted list in 2009 after committing fraud and embezzling money from hundreds of oil-palm farmers who worked for BIG. But his case was abandoned when he allegedly obtained strong support from police officers.
The latest hunt that involved the joint police team was started on Jan. 7. A team of seven police officers was deployed to check potential hiding places for Budiono.
“The suspect was not cooperative during investigations. He didn’t even show up to confirm a witness testimony that defended him,” said the West Kalimantan Police’s special crime unit division director Sr. Comr. Widodo.
He added that it was only Budiono’s lawyer who came to the police, demanding that they open up a frozen bank account in the Ketapang branch of Bank Danamon, containing Rp 7 billion (US$553,513).
Budiono was reported to the police in July 2009 for embezzling Rp 300 billion from the farmers. The money was supposed to be paid to the farmers for harvests during the year as well as the farmers’ savings.
Budiono has been charged with embezzlement and fraud.
The West Kalimantan Police have admitted that the case is hard to resolve due to intervention from “certain groups”.
Amid the country’s reliance on the palm-oil sector, many practices of palm-oil businesses have hurt local communities, as well as ruining the environment.
Since 2012, the ministry has investigated and filed lawsuits against a number of plantation companies.
Last year, Meulaboh District Court found PT Kallista Alam guilty of burning peatland in the Leuser conservation area in Nagan Raya regency, Aceh, and ordered the firm to pay a fine of $30.5 million.
The year also saw PT ADEI Plantation & Industry, a unit of Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhard, found guilty of violating the 2009 Environmental Protection and Management Law.
The Pelalawan District Court in Riau handed down a fine of Rp 1.5 billion. If the fine is not paid, the company’s director, Tan Kei Yoong, must serve five months in jail. The court also ordered ADEI to pay an additional Rp 15.1 billion to repair environmental damage caused by forest fires it had caused.
Furthermore, the court sentenced ADEI general manager Danesuvaran KR Singam to one year in prison, plus a Rp 2 billion fine or an additional two months’ imprisonment.
After auditing agroforestry companies in Riau, the government has planned to run its next audit in Central Kalimantan.