Palm oil businessman gets 3 years for bribing governor

Palm oil businessman gets 3 years for bribing governor

JAKARTA - The panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court on Monday sentenced palm oil businessman Gulat Manurung to three years for bribing suspended governor Annas Ma'mun for a land-conversion permit in the province.

The sentence is lower than the four-and-half-year prison term demanded by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) prosecutors last week.

The judges also ordered Gulat to pay a fine of Rp 100 million (S$11 000) or to serve another three months behind bars.

"Our examination into the evidence found Gulat Medali Emas Manurung was guilty of corruption," presiding judge Supriyono said in court on Monday.

The judge said Gulat, who is chairman of the Indonesian Oil Palm Farmers Association (Apkasindo) Riau chapter, had violated Article 5 of the 1999 Corruption Law on bribery of state officials, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Supriyono said that evidence and witness testimonies during the two month trial had confirmed that Gulat had paid Annas US$166,100 ( S$226 000) for his service obtaining a land conversion permit for a total of 1,188 hectares of land in Kuantan Sengingi regency and 1,214 hectares in Rokan Hilir regency belonging to Gulat and his friends.

This was part of the 1,638,249 hectare forest conversion proposed by the Riau administration to the Forestry Ministry last year.

KPK prosecutors in their indictment said during a visit to Riau in August, former forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan, in a speech at the administration office, encouraged people in Riau to make proposals to change the status of their land so they could become part of the 1,638,249 ha allowed for conversion by the ministry.

Prosecutors said that following encouragement by Zulkifli, who currently serves as the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker, the Riau administration conducted studies on which specific areas could be included.

The administration sent a proposal to Zulkifli, who granted his approval. The prosecutors said that Zulkifli, who is a senior politician in the National Mandate Party (PAN), approved some of the areas proposed by Annas.

However, prosecutors said Annas later revised the proposal that he had sent to Zulkifli, adding in the land belonging to Gulat and his colleagues because of the bribe.

"After finding out there was a chance of revision, the defendant, who was close to Annas Mamun, asked the governor's help to include his oil palm plantation in the revised proposal," judge Joko Subagyo said.

The judges said that after submitting the revised proposal to Zulkifli's office, Annas phoned Gulat asking for Rp 2.9 billion in US dollar bank notes for his service but the businessman could only afford Rp 2 billion.

Riau saw 21,400 hectares of its land converted to oil palm plantations between 2011 and 2012, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).

Meanwhile, Annas' trial started last week at Bandung Corruption Court in West Java. He has been charged with Articles 11 and 12 of the 1999 Corruption Law on state officials who accept bribes. The articles carry a maximum punishment of 20 years's imprisonment.

Annas is the third consecutive Riau governor to be implicated in a graft case. The previous two governors, Rusli Zainal and Saleh Djasit, have already been sentenced in two separate graft cases.

Rusli was sentenced to 10 years for his role in the Pelalawan forestry permit and Riau National Games graft cases, while Saleh got four years for his involvement in the procurement of fire-fighting vehicles.

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