2020-06-25

This investigation examines a $22 million “consultancy fee” paid by one of the world’s largest palm oil conglomerates, the Korindo Group, in connection with the acquisition of a shell company that held permits to establish an oil palm plantation in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua.

According to experts we interviewed for the story, the payment bears the hallmarks of a common ruse in which sham consultants are used to channel millions of dollars to government officials in exchange for contracts or permits. While it is impossible, they noted, to tell if the payment funded bribery without using powers available only to government agencies, they said it warranted investigation by law enforcers. 

We traveled to Papua on the trail of Kim Nam Ku, the man Korindo says received the consultancy payment in exchange for his shares in the company, and mapped out his career through interviews with former colleagues. Today, Korindo controls more land in Papua than any other conglomerate, and has assumed many of the functions of the state in one of Indonesia’s most neglected and militarized areas.

Korindo denies paying bribes and says its plantations have benefited the Papuan people.

The article was produced by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, in collaboration with the Korean Center for Investigative Journalism-Newstapa and 101 East, Al Jazeera’s Asia-Pacific current affairs programme.

Summary by The Gecko Project and Mongabay

Photo by Albertus Vembrianto.
Photo by Albertus Vembrianto.

 

Photo by Albertus Vembrianto
Agustinus Keong, 68, works as a labourer in an oil palm plantation, after his clan’s forest was cleared in early 2014. Photo by Albertus Vembrianto.

 

Photo by Albertus Vembrianto
A family from the Auyu tribe in search for firewood. Photo by Albertus Vembrianto.

 

Hans Nicholas Jong

Hans Nicholas Jong is a staff writer at the environmental news site Mongabay.

Febriana Firdaus

Febriana Firdaus is a freelance journalist based in Indonesia.

Jiyoon Kim

Jiyoon Kim is a reporter at the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism (KCIJ)-Newstapa.

Albertus Vembrianto

Albertus Vembrianto is a freelance photojournalist and visual storyteller who works mostly on independent projects in Papua, Indonesia.

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson is the founder and editor of The Gecko Project, an investigative journalism initiative established to shine a light on the corruption driving land grabs and the destruction of tropical rainforests.

Philip Jacobson

Philip Jacobson is a senior contributing editor with the environmental news site Mongabay, focusing primarily on Indonesia.

Supported
€9.400 was allocated on 25/04/2020
ID
MT/2019/063

ONLINE

The Consultant: Why did a palm oil conglomerate pay $22m to an unnamed ‘expert’ in Papua? - The Gecko Project, 25 June 2020

How we calculated Korindo’s revenues from clearing Papuan rainforest - The Gecko Project, 25 June 2020

The Consultant: Why did a palm oil conglomerate pay $22m to an unnamed ‘expert’ in Papua? - Mongabay, 25 June 2020

How we calculated Korindo’s revenues from clearing Papuan rainforest - Mongabay, 29 June 2020

Green Echoes #11 - Investigating Supply Chains - The Environmental Reporting Collective, 14 July 2020

DOCUMENTARY

Selling Out West Papua - 101 East (Al Jazeera), 25 June 2020

INTERACTIVE

The $5 Forests - Al Jazeera, 26 June 2020

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