Indonesia’s AGO to question senior minister in investigation into palm oil graft case

Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto had already skipped his first summons without giving a reason and after asking investigators to push back the questioning.


Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto waves from inside his car after attending a limited Cabinet meeting at the State Palace in Jakarta on July 10, 2023.(Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

July 20, 2023

JAKARTA – The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) plans to send another subpoena for Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto to be present for questioning as a witness next Monday in its investigation into a corruption case that has been blamed for contributing toward a domestic cooking oil shortage last year.

Airlangga skipped his first summons on Tuesday without giving a reason and after asking investigators to push back the questioning from Monday, according to AGO spokesperson Ketut Sumedana.

“We hope all citizens respect the law,” Ketut said, as reported by, adding the investigators would send the second subpoena for Airlangga later this week.

Five people, including a high-ranking government official, were sentenced to prison earlier this year for conspiring to secure permits for exporting crude palm oil (CPO) and its derivatives through illegal means from January 2021 to March 2022, following an AGO investigation into the case.

Investigators are 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.

According to Ketut, the investigators would seek information from Airlangga about export permit procedures and his policies related to CPO exports during the period when the corruption case took place.

The government has been tightening exports of CPO and its derivatives following a shortage in cooking oil at the end of 2021.

Among the new policies introduced to address the issue was a domestic market obligation (DMO) policy, requiring CPO exporters to allocate at least 20 percent of their produce for domestic needs.

At the peak of cooking oil scarcity 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 have these companies obtain CPO export permits despite not meeting the DMO requirement. They are PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia president commissioner Master Parulian Tumanggor, Permata Hijau Group senior manager of corporate affairs Stanley MA and PT Musim Mas general manager Pierre Togar.

The AGO also arrested renowned economist Lin Che Wei on accusations of helping the three executives get the export permits illegally.

All five individuals were sentenced to prison by a lower court in January of this year. The Supreme Court later increased their sentences to between five and eight years in prison and found that their crime has resulted in Rp 6.4 trillion (US$426.5 million) in state losses.

The AGO named the three palm oil corporate groups, Wilmar Group, which is the parent company of PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia, Musim Mas Group and Permata Hijau Group, suspects in the case last month after finding indications that the three executives had acted on behalf of these companies. At the time, Musim Mas Group said it respected the legal proceedings and would fully cooperate with the authorities. Wilmar Group said no official charges had been filed against it and that it was seeking clarification on the issue, while Permata Hijau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, the AGO confiscated some of the assets of the companies in Medan, North Sumatra, which includes 14,687 hectares of land, 56 ships, a helicopter, a business jet and some Rp 9 billion worth of cash in rupiah and foreign currencies, according to a press release.

Investigators interrogated president director of CPO producer PT Sari Agrotama Persada, identified only by their initials TM, last week. The company is part of the Wilmar Group. Investigators also grilled on Monday two officials from the Trade Ministry. (nal)

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