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  Yahoo News 5 Jul 06
Ex-Indonesian general arrested for illegal logging

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian police said they had arrested a former army general and two company directors for alleged involvement in illegal logging on Borneo island.

All three were directors of different firms based in East Kalimantan and responsible for overseeing "unlawful logging of tree logs and selling them" to Singapore and Malaysia, said national police deputy spokesman Anton Bahrul Alam.

Alam identified the three as retired two-star general and former member of parliament Gusti Syaifuddin, Arifin and Darul Hakim.

Firms owned by the trio had cut down trees in a 15-square-kilometer (nine-square-mile) concession area in East Kalimantan without permits from the forestry ministry and failed to replant the area with palm oil, Alam said.

He said police had confiscated more than 6,200 cubic meters (66,700 square feet) of logs and 18 tractors as evidence. The logs had been auctioned off and generated 3.25 billion rupiah (357,930 US dollars) for the state, Alam said.

But the loss caused by the deforestation was "worth a lot more" than the cash from the sold logs, he told AFP, adding that the three men could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared war against illegal logging in March last year.

Indonesia is estimated to lose more than three billion dollars in revenue annually due to the practice.

Much of Indonesia's forested areas are however also being lost to palm oil plantations, with the area under plantation soaring from 120,000 hectares (296,000 acres) in 1968 to 5.5 million hectares in 2004.

The WWF warned earlier this year that plantation projects may be serving as an excuse to plunder forests: once the often valuable tropical trees are cut down, the operations are often halted and devastated areas left as wasteland.

Rapid deforestation has had devastating environmental consequences for both Indonesia and the Southeast Asian region, causing floods and landslides and shrouding nearby countries with haze from illegal fires set to clear land.

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