The authorities are to investigate the illegal sale of 13 islands in the latest of a series of corruption scandals in one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations, officials said on Thursday.
Local government officials have accused the National Land Agency (BPN) of giving ownership papers for the islets off Lombok island, near Bali, to individuals and companies, West Lombok administration spokesman Ispan Junaidi said.
Junaedi said the islets, diving and snorkelling hotspots with huge coral reefs teeming with marine wildlife, include Gili Renggit, Gili Tangkong and Gili Nanggu, which is dotted with pristine beaches and is known locally as the “Paradise Island.”
West Lombok BPN chief Udin Syafrudin denied that his office had issued the ownership certificates.
“We’ve never issued that kind of papers. Some may make investment on the islands by building resorts, but not owning the land, and this is not against the law,” he said.
An official from the provincial prosecutor’s office who didn’t want to be named said the islands covered almost 150 hectares, adding that foreign companies claimed ownership of 16 hectares on Gili Tangkong and Gili Renggit.
Corruption is widespread in Indonesia, with Transparency International’s annual Perceptions Index in 2010 putting the 110th out of 178 countries in terms of probity.