24 Mar 2005

Malaysians detained for alleged Papua timber smuggling involvement

1:26 pm on 24 March 2005

Nine Malaysian nationals have reportedly been detained by police in the Indonesian province of Papua for allegedly financing massive timber smuggling operations.

According to the news agency, AFP, a police spokesman, Ariyanto Budiharjo, says the Malaysians are among 69 people recently named as suspects following a police operation targetting illegal logging rings in the resource-rich province.

Last month, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency said it had uncovered massive timber smuggling from Papua to China, describing it as the world's largest logging racket, involving the valuable merbau wood species.

The EIA said 300,000 cubic metres of merbau - a hardwood used for flooring - is being smuggled out of Papua every month to feed China's timber processing industry.

Mr Budiharjo says it's been ascertained that the Malaysians are involved in the financing of the operation.

Meanwhile, he says four police officers are being investigated for allegedly taking bribes from timber interests.