Corrupt Indonesian cop Labora Sitorus, jailed for 15 years for large-scale timber theft, is at large after apparently being allowed to leave prison unescorted to seek medical treatment.
The former chief brigadier in Raja Ampat, West Papua, has now been added to a list of West Papua’s most-wanted and a team has been set up by the state prosecutor’s office in Sorong to track him down.
Following a legal wrangle over a startlingly lenient first verdict handed down early in 2014 by a court in West Papua, State prosecutors appealed to Indonesia’s Supreme Court and last September Sitorus was sentenced to 15 years and ordered to pay Rp5 billion in fines.
However, The Jakarta Post reported yesterday (Thursday) that when the state prosecutor’s office sought to formally execute the Supreme Court’s verdict, Sitorus was not to be found in Sorong Prison.
Prison head Maliki Hasan reportedly stated Sitorus was allowed to leave the facility to seek medical treatment in March 2014 but did not return. Hasan added that his predecessor had “never summoned” Sitorus when he failed to return from hospital treatment.
The corrupt lawman was originally charged with illegal logging, fuel smuggling and money laundering but in February last year was found guilty of just one charge – illegal logging – and sentenced to a mere two years in prison with a US$4,000 fine.
He was acquitted of money laundering, despite evidence showing US$127 million passed through his accounts.
An initial appeal filed by prosecutors led to Sitorus being convicted of money laundering and jailed for eight years by the High Court of Jayapura, Papua, on May 2.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released video footage in May 2013 of illegal loggers harvesting merbau and other species for Sitorus’ timber company, PT Rotua, from forests on Batanta island in the ecologically outstanding Raja Ampat archipelago of West Papua – a potential World Heritage site candidate.
PT Rotua also reportedly received timber from the forests of Sorong, Aimas, Bintuni and other regions of West Papua.
In releasing the footage, EIA called on the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) – Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission – to investigate police corruption in the case, following the earlier collapse of similar cases of police involvement in illegal merbau trade in West Papua.
The Sitorus case raised significant doubts as to the effectiveness of Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system, intended to eradicate illegal logging in the country and maintain access to environmentally sensitive markets which have banned illegal timber imports, such as the EU, USA and Australia.
His absconding from prison now raises equally significant concerns about police impunity in Indonesia’s Justice system.
EIA Senior Campaigner Jago Wadley said: “When convicted timber crooks are allowed to simply waltz out of prison and remain at large for 10 months without their absence being reported, and when that convicted criminal is a policeman accused of bribing senior police officials, Indonesia looks like a mafia state.”