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Indonesia’s newly minted investigators to go after illegal fishing kingpins

Indonesia’s newly minted investigators to go after illegal fishing kingpins

Indonesia is scaling up its fight against fisheries-related crimes, going beyond boat crews to target the ultimate beneficiaries of these illegal practices.
The country’s fisheries ministry announced the move in the wake of a Constitutional Court decision in June that allows civil servants to investigate certain criminal acts.

“The civil servant investigators can now follow the trail of assets of the criminals in the fisheries and marine sector for signs of money laundering,” Adin Nurawaluddin, the ministry’s director-general of marine and fisheries resources monitoring, said in a statement.

Indonesia hosts one of the world’s richest fisheries. But the industry is notorious for its convoluted webs of corporate ownership and vessel registration, often spread across various jurisdictions, which help mask the true ownership — the ultimate beneficiaries — of fishing activity, both legal and illegal.

A 2020 paper by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy says the perpetrators behind organized crime in the fisheries industry are companies with complex operational activities in many countries. Some of these crimes are corporate in nature, as in the laundering of criminal proceeds through offshore financial centers where ownership can’t be traced.

Adin said his office would partner with the KPK, Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, and the PPATK, the anti-money-laundering agency, in bringing transparency to these activities. He said they would help with digital forensics, expert testimony, and transaction analysis. The ministry itself has just over 450 civil servant investigators, 185 of whom are licensed to investigate money laundering.

Marine observers have praised the ministry’s pledge to target beneficial owners in fisheries crimes, calling it an important step in cracking down on the practice. For a long time, the only people who faced any kind of prosecution for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing were typically the crews of the vessels caught in the act; the owners of the vessels, where they could be identified, avoided any kind of punishment.
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