JAKARTA — Indonesia is lobbying the United Nations to allow governments worldwide to pursue money-laundering charges against illegal fishing operators, in a bid to crack down on the practice more forcefully.
The Indonesian government on Monday proposed that illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing be included in the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). Indonesia ratified the convention in 2008.
The UNTOC, also known as the Palermo Convention, deliberately omits the classification of transnational crimes to allow room for the inclusion of new types of transnational crimes. In theory, this could include IUU fishing, which, if successfully designated a transnational crime, could be tackled through anti-money-laundering processes.
Susi Pudjiastuti, the Indonesian fisheries minister, “has in many global forums proclaimed that illegal fishing should be designated [in the UNTOC] as a transnational organized fishery crime,” said Mas Achmad Santosa, an investigator from the ministry’s illegal fishing prevention task force, as quoted by local news portal Tempo.
The proposal comes in response to what the ministry sees as obstacles to investigating the funders of foreign vessels that fish in the country’s rich oceans. In November 2014, a month after his inauguration, President Joko Widodo slapped a moratorium on foreign fishing vessels from operating in Indonesian waters, home to one of the world’s largest capture fisheries. The policy has since been followed by the seizure and scuttling of such vessels, which has drawn mixed responses worldwide.
In October 2015, the ministry joined forces with Indonesia’s anti-money laundering agency, known as the PPATK, to look into the financial backers behind the illegal fishing operations.
“The issue is quite complicated when the case involves foreign vessels, because the owner is outside Indonesia,” Achmad said as quoted by Tempo.
Another hurdle is the fact that the fisheries ministry lacks the authority to carry out a criminal investigation into money laundering, said senior ministry official Muhammad Yusuf. Under Indonesian law, only the police, the Attorney General’s Office, the customs department and the national anti-corruption commission, known as the KPK, may pursue such investigations.
“But we keep communicating [about the issue] with the KPK and PPATK,” Yusuf said.