JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities have opened a corruption case linked to the issuance of palm oil export permits, naming four suspects including a trade ministry official and palm oil company executives, the attorney general said on Tuesday.
The move comes as the government in Indonesia, which is the world’s top palm oil producer, has faced pressure to control soaring cooking oil prices. Authorities between late January and the middle of March restricted exports of palm oil and its derivatives, requiring companies to meet demand at home before they were allowed to export.
“We have conducted an investigation and have found strong indications of the criminal offence of corruption relating to the issuance of export permits for palm oil,” Attorney General Sanitiar Burhanuddin said in a televised statement.
There was evidence export permits had been issued for companies that had not yet met the requirements to meet local supply, he said.
The attorney general only gave the initials of the suspects but said they included a director general of international trade at the trade ministry and officials at three companies – Permata Hijau Group, PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia and Musim Mas.
Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi in a statement said his ministry supported the ongoing legal process.
“The Trade Ministry also stands ready to provide any information needed in the law enforcement process,” he said.
Wilmar Group said in a statement it had “complied with all applicable regulations related to export approvals and we will always cooperate in supporting government policies.”
Musim Mas asked for more time to comment and Pertama Hijau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sahat Sinaga, executive director of the Indonesian Vegetable Oil Industry Association, defended the actions of the implicated companies and said according to the group’s data they had met domestic sales requirements.
“These companies worked according to the regulations,” he said.
(Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Ed Davies)