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A Missing Tycoon

Did military or police leaders assist in the disappearance of a Jambi timber baron?

THE large white mansion with fences 2 meters high does not look like an office. It seems quiet and deserted. Actually, the two-story building in Lorong Kuningan 111, Talangbanjar, East Jambi subdistrict, Jambi, is the head office of PT Dekapura Kencana, at the same time the house of timber tycoon Ahi alias Sudiman. “Now it’s only me and my two children living in this house,” said Ati, a
domestic servant, last Wednesday.

This has been the situation since Ahi had trouble with the police last year. He was indeed released by the judges of the Jambi District Court in the case of possession of 648 logs, but there is still the 2,625 logs possession case awaiting him. The Jambi Regional Police put him on the list of wanted men two weeks ago.

In Jambi’s timber business, Ahi is not a new player. He established his business about eight years ago, starting as a timber-gauging officer. In 2003, the man born in Jambi on June 6, 1962 was reported to the police by the Indonesian Conservation Community, a non-governmental organization, for encroachment on the Bukit Dua Belas National Park. “The case was just passed over,” said program coordinator of the Community, Robert Aritonang.

Some believe that Ahi escaped due to his good relations with key officials in the region. Dani, a former staff in PT Dekapura, said his boss got along very well with Indonesian Military authorities from the city command to the regional command and also National Police leaders. “But it was in the past,” added the 42-year-old.

Ahi’s maneuvers hit a stumbling block last year. Conserved Forest Operation III 2006 was launched, with 12 illegal loggers arrested. According to Jambi Regional Police Chief, Brig. Gen. Carel Risakotta, Ahi was just implicated in the 648 logs found in PT Sumatera Mas Plywood, Kunangan village, Kumpeh Ulu subdistrict, Muarojambi.

Carel said Ahi was under surveillance when an illegal logging eradication team examined a pontoon carrying the wood of PT Dekapura Kencana in the log yard and log pond of PT Sumatera on September 11, 2006. The logs to be sold to PT Sumatera were not in line with their document. Ahi was detained 11 days later.

But the police hunt ended in vain on February 5. The Jambi District Court’s judicial trio Mega Boena, Amin Ismanto, and Ganjar Pasaribu accepted the objection of Ahi’s attorney T. Simanjuntak. In the session, Simanjuntak questioned two files in the case. It was one of the judges’ considerations for canceling the charges of the prosecutor and ordering the release of Ahi.

The prosecutor and judges argued. According to the former, the two charges appeared after judge Amin Ismanto’s request on December 19, 2006. It included the changed accusation date from December 12 to 13, 2006. The judge denied such a request.

The controversy continued. Following the interim-decision session, Simanjuntak asked for a decision copy from the court secretary. At around 2pm West Indonesian Time, the decision was obtained. He hurried to the Jambi jail. “I only delivered the provisional decision to my client,” he said. “Then I left.”

The prosecutor was not satisfied by the decision. “I’m disappointed and am concerned over the release of the region’s big-shot timber tycoon by the judges,” said Kemas Yahya Rachman. He also asked his subordinates to institute a legal protest. At about 6:30pm, the police and prosecutor rushed off to the Jambi jail. The prosecutor would carry out legal execution, while the police were making an arrest for a new case: the possession of 2,625 logs derived from the protected forest in Semabu village, Sumay subdistrict, Tebo regency. But Ahi had disappeared three hours earlier.

Jambi Prison Governor Syahrial Hasan claimed to be aware that the execution should have awaited the prosecutor. “But we couldn’t hold him for over an hour after a judicial decision.” The prosecutor refuted it. “The time limit is one day,” said Kemas Yahya. The prosecutor reported the prison official’s conduct to the police.

Ahi’s whereabouts remain unknown. Ati, the servant, claimed to have not seen her employer since last September. “I haven’t seen him home for five months,” said the 45-year-old woman. His two wives are no longer with him either. Ahi’s mother, living next door, was tight-lipped. “Don’t ask about it,” she said, “it makes me dizzy.”

Simanjuntak also shrugged when asked about his client. “Until today he hasn’t contacted me yet,” he said. But the police will keep chasing him. “We think he could be either in Palembang or Jakarta,” said Jambi Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Yatin Suyatno.

Abdul Manan, Syaipul Bakhori

Tempo Magazine, No. 25/VII/Feb 20 - 26, 2007

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