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Indonesia’s Attorney General’s Office (AGO) was planning to subpoena Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto for questioning as a witness in its investigation into a palm oil corruption case which led to the imprisonment of five people earlier this year, Asia News Network reported on 20 July.

Investigators were currently seeking to hold three palm oil private companies criminally liable for misconduct in obtaining export permits at a time when shipments were being restricted, Asia News Network wrote from a Jakarta Post report.

According to AGO spokesperson Ketut Sumedana, the investigators would seek information from Airlangga about export permit procedures and his policies related to crude palm oil exports (CPO) exports during the period under investigation.

The government had been tightening exports of CPO and derivatives following a shortage in cooking oil at the end of 2021, the report said. Among the policies introduced to address the issue was a domestic market obligation (DMO) policy, requiring CPO exporters to allocate at least 20% of their produce for domestic needs.

Last year, the AGO arrested then Trade Ministry’s international trade director general Indrasari Wisnu Wardhana and three executives from three private companies on allegations they were colluding to obtain CPO export permits despite not meeting the DMO requirements. The AGO also arrested economist Lin Che Wei on accusations of helping the three executives obtain the export permits illegally.

All five were sentenced to prison in January for conspiring to secure CPO export permits through illegal means from January 2021 to March 2022. The Supreme Court, which later increased their prison sentences to between five and eight years, found that their crime has resulted in Rp 6.4 trillion (US$426.5M) in state losses.

In June, the AGO named three palm oil corporate groups - Wilmar Group (the parent company of PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia), Musim Mas Group and Permata Hijau Group - as suspects in the case after finding indications that the three imprisoned executives had acted on behalf of these companies. It confiscated some assets of the companies in Medan, North Sumatra, including 14,687ha of land, 56 ships, a helicopter, a business jet and some Rp9bn (US$598M) worth of cash in rupiah and foreign currencies, the report said.