A worker checks the quality of crude palm oil (CPO) at a state-owned CPO processing unit in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Tarmizy Harva

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JAKARTA, April 19 (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities have opened a corruption case linked to the issuance of palm oil export permits, naming four suspects, including a Commerce Ministry official and company executives palm oil, the attorney general announced on Tuesday.

The move comes as the Indonesian government, which is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, has come under pressure to control soaring cooking oil prices. Between late January and mid-March, authorities restricted exports of palm oil and its derivatives, forcing companies to meet demand in their country before being allowed to export.

“We have conducted an investigation and found strong evidence of the criminal offense of bribery related to the issuance of palm oil export permits,” Attorney General Sanitiar Burhanuddin said in a televised statement.

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There was evidence that export permits had been issued to companies that had not yet met the requirements to meet local sourcing, he said.

The attorney general gave only the initials of the suspects, but said they included a director general for international trade at the Ministry of Commerce and officials from three companies – Permata Hijau Group, PT Wilmar Nabati Indonesia and Musim Mas.

Commerce Minister Muhammad Lutfi said in a statement that his ministry supported the ongoing legal process.

“The Department of Commerce is also ready to provide any necessary information as part of the law enforcement process,” he said.

Representatives for Wilmar and Musim Mas declined to comment immediately, while Pertama Hijau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(This story corrects spelling of second name in paragraph 3)

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Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe Writing by Fransiska Nangoy Editing by Ed Davies

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