Meet the Real Sukanto Tanoto


Sukanto Tanoto, Lim Sioe Liong & Suharto

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Sukanto Tanoto continues peat clearance despite fire threat

Jakarta, 8 July 2014 – International customers are suspending contracts with Indonesia’s second largest pulp and paper company APRIL, which is part of the RGE Group, as photographic evidence from Greenpeace International shows clearance of rainforests and fire-prone peatland. The Greenpeace evidence comes just a week after a new study shows Indonesia’s forests are disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world.

Office supplies chain Staples recently confirmed that it no longer stocks APRIL products globally, after Greenpeace International identified links to the company in China. Antalis has also confirmed that it will not resume business with APRIL until it implements a Forest Conservation Policy. Greenpeace urges customers of RGE /APRIL such as the world’s largest paper company International Paper, 3M and US retailer Costco to urgently follow their lead.

“APRIL, a member of the Royal Golden Eagle group, has been caught telling its customers it has support from governments and NGOs at the exact same time its bulldozers are out trashing Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands. Will these customers continue to fall for RGE/APRIL’s PR spin or follow Staples’ lead and suspend contracts with the company?” said forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Zulfahmi.

A Greenpeace ‘flyover’ in late May documented ongoing clearance of dense forest, and the drainage of peatlands at the site of an APRIL supplier on Padang Island off the coast of Riau. APRIL’s policy claims that the company does not develop land that is of “high conservation value” based on assessments that have been independently peer reviewed by the High Conservation Value Resource Network (HCVRN).  However, Greenpeace International confirmed with the HCVRN that it has peer reviewed assessments for just two, out of 50 concessions that are estimated to supply APRIL. HCVRN has requested that APRIL correct its misleading claim.

Despite these findings, APRIL continues to claim, in documents leaked to Greenpeace, that it has “strong support” from WWF and that the Norwegian Government has endorsed its  “Sustainable Forest Management Policy”. Both WWF and the Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia have confirmed that these statements are incorrect and that they do not endorse the policy.

“Apparently RGE/APRIL doesn’t consider the clearance of rainforest on areas of deep peat to be in conflict with its conservation commitments. But Indonesia’s forests are disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world precisely because of practices such as these,” said Zulfahmi.

Greenpeace also documented evidence of extensive fires in another of its supplier pulpwood plantations, inside the PT Sumatra Riang Lestari (PT SRL) concession on Rupat Island in Riau Province. According to Greenpeace analysis, fire hotspots are 3.5 times more frequent on deforested peatland than on peatland that has not been cleared by companies like APRIL.

“RGE/APRIL has been quick to blame others, but clearing and draining peatlands are a significant reason for the fires. It’s like dousing your house in petrol and blaming a passing smoker when it all goes up in flames. Until all forests and peatland are fully protected, the fires will continue to take hold,” said Zulfahmi.

APRIL is one of a number of pulp companies related to the Sukanto Tanoto controlled RGE group. The others are Asia Symbol, Sateri, Bahia Speciality Cellulose and Toba Pulp Lestari. RGE’s palm oil subsidiary, Asian Agri, has been embroiled in Indonesia’s biggest tax evasion case and named in a joint UNEP/Interpol report for its links to environmental crimes.

Despite recent major progress from other big plantation companies like Golden Agri Resources, Wilmar, and Asia Pulp & Paper, RGE/APRIL is refusing to immediately stop forest clearance. Greenpeace urges all customers of the group, and its financers which are reported to include Santander and ABN Amro, to suspend business with RGE/APRIL until it implements credible commitments to end its role in deforestation.

Notes to Editor:
1.  Photos of ongoing clearance at PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (PT RAPP) pulpwood concession on Pulau Pedang, in Riau Province. PT RAPP is a subsidiary of APRIL. Link to images here.
2.  Photos of forest fire scars at PT Sumatra Riang Lestari (PT SRL) pulpwood concession in Rupat Island, in Riau Province. PT SRL is a supplier to APRIL. Link to images here.
3. The Norwegian Embassy in Indonesia, WWF and the High Conservation Value Resource Network confirmations have been communicated directly to Greenpeace International campaigners.
4. The leaked APRIL customer presentation can be viewed here.


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Sukanto Tanoto and Suharto Connection

It is a well known ‘secret’ that Sukanto Tanoto is connected in business with the Suharto family and also Lim Sioe Liong.
How does it started?
Sukanto Tanoto was a business partner of Lim Lioe Liong.
In the 1960s Japan financed pine plantations in the Lake Toba area with an
understanding that a joint venture company would be established to export pulp
to Japan. A decade later, Indonesia’s President Soeharto contacted Liem Sioe
Liong, head of the Salim Group, to find an entrepreneur willing to undertake
the venture. Liem recommended his friend, Sukanto Tanoto, ‘king of the
plywood industry’. Tanoto’s younger brother, Polar, ‘was an engineer [with]
experience in the pulp industry’ (Polar Tanoto got an engineering degree from Taiwan). The Tanotos’ PT Raja Garuda
Mas, became holding company for the new PT Inti Indorayon Utama (and
later, its new sister company, PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, discussed
Indorayon was originally a ‘joint venture of Canadian, Korean, and Indonesian partners backed by the president’s oldest son’. In 1992, Indorayon’s 405 million shares were held as follows:
PT Adimitra Rayapratama 102 million shares (25%)
Sukanto Tanoto 98 million shares (24%)
PT Indorayonesia Lestari 75 million shares (19%)
Other public corporations 43 million shares (11%)
Scan Fiber Co., SA 37.5 million shares (9%)
Cellulosa Int. SA 25 million shares (6%)
Polar Yanto Tanoto 23.5 million shares (6%)
Tanoto has close connection with, Tirtamas (Hashim Djojohadikusumo, brother of Prabowo,  and his sister-in-law, Titiek Prabowo), Marison Nusantara (Akbar Tanjung).
All the shares in Tantono companies are overlapped with Salim and Suharto Family’s
Probosutedjo, a younger stepbrother of Soeharto was known in the late 1970s
to be close to the Raja Garuda Mas (RGM) Group, a business conglomerate
active in forestry, paper & pulp, palm oil manufacturing and coal mining in
Indonesia (North Sumatra, Riau & South Kalimantan) and Malaysia (Riau).
RGM also has several overlapping companies with the Salim Group, in which
the Suharto family are represented by Sudwikatmono, Suharto’s cousin, and
two of the Suharto siblings, Sigit Harjojudanto and Siti Haryanti Rukmana
(Tutut), who are both co-shareholders of Salim’s financial flagship, Bank
Central Asia. It also has some overlapping shares with the family of Golkar
chairman, Akbar Tanjung, through the Tanjung family’s business vehicle, PT
Marison Nusantara.
Sandwell, from Canada, and Jaakko Po¨yry, from Finland, conducted initial
engineering studies for Indorayon in 1983–84. The Government of Indonesia
arranged funding through national banks. Road construction began in 1986, as
did establishment of timber plantations on 236,000 ha of forestry concessions
(HPH). These actions were taken ‘without prior consultation with the
community or any local groups’ (Tanjung 1992). Soon after, a landslide,
blamed on Indorayon’s poor engineering of logging roads, buried a village.
Construction proceeded with government protection.6
Trial operations began at the Indorayon mill in May 1988. Three months
later, the mill’s aeration lagoon burst, sending raw chemical waste into the
Asahan River (Sungai Asahan), and into the water supply for villages and
industries downstream. In December, WALHI, and YLBH sued Indorayon and
government officials, alleging the company’s failure to conduct an
environmental impact assessment and the government’s failure to enforce
new environmental regulations. Although ultimately losing the suit, WALHI
and YLBH set an important legal precedent, establishing Indonesian NGOs’
standing to sue corporations and government officials (Moniaga, 1993; Fox,
1994; Eldridge, 1995).
The most widely publicised conflict between Indorayon and its neighbours
occurred in 1989, concerning the company’s right to plant eucalyptus seedlings
in its concession area. Angered at Indorayon’s incursion into traditional cattle
grazing areas, Batak villagers ‘systematically [cut] down some 16,000 trees
planted by the company’ (Eldridge, 1995:116–7). The company sought and
obtained military protection for its forest operations. Ten village women were
jailed on charges related to the protest. Legal proceedings ensued (Simbolon,
1991; Sayadi et al., 1992).
In May 1989, students in Medan held a large demonstration in support of the
communities in conflict with Indorayon. Church activists,7 environmentalists
and others called on the Government of Indonesia to force Indorayon to respect
community rights; protesters also called for a halt to further pulp mill
development throughout the country.
Indorayon’s management had different ideas, however. The firm went public
on the Jakarta Stock Exchange in May 1990 to finance expansion. With 10
million Finnmarks from government-run Export Credit Ltd., Jaakko Po¨yry
helped Indorayon develop a new plantation programme (Ulvila, 1994). In
support of the company, the Government of Indonesia cracked down on unrest
in the Lake Toba area. The Study Group for the Development of Community
Initiative (KSPPM),8 a church-organised NGO involved in the Indorayon
conflict, was ordered to cease operations for two months (Jones 1994). A
congress by the ‘trouble-making’ church was cancelled. Lawsuits wended their
way through the courts. Indorayon’s expansion proceeded.
Students and environmentalists persisted in efforts to bring attention to the
Indorayon mill’s social and environmental impacts. Activists in Medan
established a new NGO to examine pulp industry development in Indonesia.
WALHI staff wrote lengthy articles about the company in the Indonesian and
English editions of the network’s magazine (cf. WALHI 1992b; WALHI
1992a).9 Separately, human rights advocates documented government efforts
to silence Batak church activists (see Eldridge, 1995; Jones, 1994).
Then, on November 5, 1993, a boiler exploded at Indorayon, showering the
countryside with chemicals. Scared of ‘another Bhopal’ – of chemicals
contaminating themselves, their children, rice fields, and livestock – ten
thousand people reportedly left the area by any means at their disposal. ‘People
walked until they could walk no more; if they had access to a vehicle, they
drove until they ran out of gas’, one local resident recounted.
Again, community activists and their Medan-based supporters demanded
government action against Indorayon. NGOs documented the company’s
history of industrial accidents and raised serious questions about effects of
chemical exposure (cf. WIM, 1994a). One month later, Sarwono
Kusumaatmadja, new minister of Indonesia’s Environmental Impact
Management Agency (BAPEDAL), shut the mill down until it could be
inspected. After a thorough inspection, Indorayon was allowed to resume
partial operations. The firm was required to submit to an independent
environmental audit, correct any flaws discovered in the audit, and be
reinspected before resuming full operations.10
Attempting to address activists’ more general concerns about pulp industry
development in Indonesia following the Indorayon boiler explosion, Minister
Sarwono went even further. An engineer by training and a former Islamic
student activist, he declared that, henceforth, any new pulp mill built in
Indonesia would have to use the more environmentally friendly elementally
chlorine-free (ECF) pulping technology (World Paper, 1994a).11 ‘We want
your investments’, he told delegates at a UNIDO co-sponsored conference on
clean production, ‘but don’t come to Indonesia expecting to build factories
with anything less [environmentally friendly] than what you are using in your
own countries’ (Kusumaatmadja, 1994).

The Real Story of Sukanto Tanoto

Sukanto Tanoto and Deutsche Bank

Sukanto Tanoto nowadays called himself An entrepreneur, philantropist, visionary and pioneer of a number of industries in Indonesia

But here’s the real story of his success, full of corruption.

Sukanto Tanoto started his business empire in 1971 with his forestry business and began expanding to other sectors after establishing Raja Garuda Mas Plywood with an investment of IDR 1 billion (USD 142,000) in 1973 (PDBI, 1997). Sukanto gained control over more natural forests in Aceh when he took over PT. Overseas Lumber Indonesia, which had HPH concession rights on 250,000 hectares of forest in 1979. He then expanded into oil palm plantations in 1980 in partnership with the Salim group, as well as other plantations and fisheries projects. At the same time, Sukanto diversified into the pulp industry with PT. Inti Indorayon Utama in 1983 and PT. Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) in 1994. Inti Indorayon Utama’s cost was about USD 402.2 million while RAPP cost USD 2.15 billion. Sukanto took over PT. United City Bank in 1987.

Twenty-five years after his first investment in the forestry sector, his business empire through domestic and foreign investment had expanded into 16 sectors. His conglomerate was valued at IDR 4 trillion (USD 571 million) by the end of 1996.

Sukanto Tanoto took over the United City Bank from its previous owner, James Semaun, and changed its name to Unibank in 1990. In 1997, at the time of the crisis, he turned the bank into a publicly listed company with total assets of IDR 1.9 trillion. At the time of this transaction, he and his partner owned 25 percent of the bank’s shares. Unibank was considered healthy by the Bank Indonesia and IBRA in 1997 and did not enter the recapitalization program. Interestingly, only a year after going public Unibank started showing structural problems and was placed under the Bank Indonesia’s ‘close supervision’ category. The Bank Indonesia requested that Unibank replace its board of directors, increase its capital and temporarily cease certain activities. Despite these requests, Unibank’s health continued to deteriorate. In November 2000, Bank Indonesia put Unibank into its ‘special supervision’ category and finally, at the end of October 2001, closed it down. Some analysts suggested the Bank Indonesia should have closed Unibank down in June 2001. However, since IBRA (representing the Indonesian government) did not have funding to repay Unibank customers’ deposits, the decision was delayed until October 2001

Sukanto Tanoto successfully avoided being held liable for the costs of closing Unibank. By the time the Bank Indonesia finally closed it down, Tanoto was no longer the owner, and none of the shareholders owned more than five percent of its total shares. In August 2001, two months before the closure, Bank Indonesia, Bapepam (the Capital Market Supervisory Agency), and IBRA had allowed Unibank to announce changes in the composition of its shareholders, and to break up its ownership into shares of less than five percent. This allowed shareholders to avoid reporting requirements, which applied to transactions involving shares equal to, or more than five percent of total shares. Some analysts felt this move was engineered to protect Sukanto Tanoto, the controlling shareholder of Unibank, from his obligations.

The Indonesian government could not force Sukanto Tanoto to enter a shareholder debt settlement as they did with Bob Hasan. Tanoto had no liability to the government, despite the fact that IBRA had to repay customer deposits of IDR 3.1 trillion or about USD 442 million. The story did not end there however; as a result of IBRA’s own regulations it was forced to pay up to IDR 70 billion, or about USD 10 million, towards deposits owned by several subsidiaries of Tanoto’s RGM Group. Expansion while not repaying debts Sukanto Tanoto, the owner of the Raja Garuda Mas Group, gained significant financial benefits from the financial crisis. He was able to expand his pulp mills in Riau while not paying his obligation on time. Foreign and local financial institutions allowed the group to increase its mill capacities. Using its holding company, Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd. (APRIL) that controlled Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) and Inti Indorayon Utama, the Raja Garuda Mas Group raised RAPP’s mill capacity from 850,000 tons per year in 1999 to 2,000,000 tons per year in 2001 making it the largest pulp and paper mill in the world (Barr, 2001).


The real Tanoto

As revealed by Wendy,, Sukanto lies even about his father’s death. Sukanto made up his story of from Rags to Riches, telling people about how he become a billionaire from just working hard.

At an interview with CCTV China,, Sukanto was compared with the Wright brothers!


What he never told people how he colluded with government officials and even stole his own brother’s money.

Sukanto came from a reasonable wealthy family, his father owned a shop selling petrol and oil in Belawan, North Sumatra. he managed to get contracts with Pertamina, the government petroleum company. He was then able to collude with then Ibnu Sutowo, the president director of the Indonesian oil and gas company Pertamina in the 1970s. Ibnu was famous for corruption, resulting Pertamina with a massive amount of foreign debt  USD 8 billion, and majority of it was contributed from corruption.


The real story of Sukanto Tanoto

Wendy Tanoto, nephew of Sukanto, has an interesting story to tell:

My uncle, Sukanto Tanoto is a very good story teller. As I mentioned several times in my blog, he always lies to me and my family since I was young.

He made up lie even on the most obvious fact, such as- his father’s death.

In his own biography and multiple interviews, my uncle, Sukanto Tanoto claimed that our grandfather passed away when he was a teenager in 1972.


” His father, an immigrant from Putien, Fujian province, was then running a three-man firm in Medan supplying spare parts to oil and construction companies. The elder Tanoto died soon after his son joined him at work, leaving the teenager to helm the family business.”

– From rags to US$2.8b fortune” Laurel Teo (2007-04-07) Business Times Singapore


“Young Sukanto had a dream of becoming a doctor but he could not pursue his dream. It is because when he was 18, his father died because of stroke, and as the oldest son, he must take the responsibility for the family.”

– Sukanto Tanoto: Remembering the Past- From Zero to Hero (2014)


Sukanto Tanoto was not born and grown up in a wealthy family. His father, Amin Tanoto, passed away when Sukanto Tanoto was 18 years old.

– Sukanto Tanoto’s Keys to Sucess in Business, Part 1 (2014)


“Eldest of 7 boys left school at age 17 to join father’s 3-man firm supplying parts to oil and gas companies. Took over after father’s early death. “

– #450 Sukanto Tanoto- The World’s Billionaires (2009)


In reality, my grandfather was alive until 2000 and passed away when Sukanto was 51 years old, which made him a little too old to be considered as a teenager. Well, people have different measurement, so no judgement on that. But making up a fake year of his own father’s death may go a little too far.

I celebrated many holidays with my grandfather, together with my uncle when I was young.





Photo: This family picture was taken in 1993. Grandpa is sitting in the center. Sukanto is sitting right next to Grandpa with a red tie. According to Sukanto, he is a teenager when he took the photo. Maybe he would also think that the woman sitting next to him is a teen mom. (Unfortunately there is no date on this photo so Sukanto can totally say that we lied about the dates and this was actually taken when he was a teenager in or before 1972. I would leave the lying part to Sukanto since he’s better at that.)

It’s unclear to me why it is necessary for Sukanto to lie about my grandfather’s death.

Just remember one thing, it is always wise to think for a second before believing Sukanto’s words because they cannot survive scrutiny.



Open Letter to Sukanto Tanoto from Wendy Tanoto

This is Wendy Tanoto.

When I was six years old, my father, Polar Yanto Tanoto died in GA152 air crash on his way flying back to our home in Medan, Indonesia on Sep 26th 1997. I can still vividly remember the day when I learned the news. It was a typical Friday afternoon when the kids were expecting dad to join the dinner at 6pm.

For those who don’t know what happened, I’m here to tell you the story of a family who survived from the abuse by the Indonesian richest man, Sukanto Tanoto, the Chairman of RGE.

Right after my father’s death, Sukanto Tanoto, my father’s 30 years business partner/ brother skillfully contemplated actions to steal my father’s estates and today, he is celebrated as the richest man in Indonesia.

It happened so quickly and so skillfully that I remember how everything started to go against my family after my father’s death. It was scary. My mother only realized things started to go wrong when Sukanto asked her to sign over my father’s estate to him 1 week after my father’s funeral. Personal attacks, humiliations and death threats started to come to my mother when she refused to sign the document. Little do we come to expect that they all come from the closest person to our family, my uncle Sukanto.

For as long as I could remember, my uncle is like the Lord Voldemort. He became very mean and distanced toward my family after my father’s death. I hate when my uncle accused my mother for born with bad luck that caused my father to die even though he knew that his words would devastate my mother even more. I didn’t like how he undermined my father’s contribution to the company. I didn’t understand how he can possibly tell the world that my father, his business partner who built a billion company with him own nothing. I didn’t expect all bad things to come at once. I thought every uncle would react this way to their nieces when their father passed away in a sudden accident.

All of his actions, accusation, humiliation toward my mother was just a way to make her breakdown, so she would not be able to manage the battle against him.

After long legal battles, my mother decided not to pursue the estate case further. It was exhausting for a single mother with 4 children and no financial income to fight against one of the most powerful men in Indonesia. There were always lawyers from around the world willing to defend him and make up things to accuse my mother. Every time my mother tried to protect us, the lawyers can always twist my mother’s actions as a gold digger who used her children as a leverage. But the truth is that we were at the edge of poverty, and my mother can no longer afford our school fees. When every wife in Indonesia was allowed to access their husband’s public records, my mother was not able to. The officials told my mother that he could not give her my father’s public record unless she resolve the problems with Sukanto and got his permission. Yes, he has influences in the government.

The fact that Sukanto got away from what he did to my family haunted me as I grew up. I couldn’t stand the tortures my mother has to go through after my father died. I couldn’t understand why my mother had to tell me that she could not sign the settlement offered by my uncle in 2000 as our guardian to give up my father’s estates because she knew my father owned much more. Even though people around her pressured her to sign the settlement, my mother knew that what Sukanto offered was purely humiliating to her husband and her family. I couldn’t understand why my grandmother told me that my mom could not be with me when I was sick because Sukanto bribed the police to arrest her in Indonesia. I was horrified at that time because I just lost my father. Every time I saw a news article on Sukanto, an interview with Sukanto, and people praising his fortune as the richest man in Indonesia, his philanthropy work and receiving the highest honor of the Dean Medal by Wharton School of University Pennsylvania – I would wonder how they would react if they know how Sukanto has taken advantage of widow and orphans of an air crash passenger/ his closest brother.

For so long, Sukanto Tanoto’s success restrained me from telling the truth. My family was asked to give up many things after my father died, but this time I decided not to give up my rights and speak my story.

Today, I think I’m fortunate. What happened to my family has brought us closer together. We support each other and appreciate each others’ existences for that difficult time. Most importantly, I have a mother who support and love us unconditionally.

However, there are people around the world suffering from abuses by powerful men who still struggle to tell their stories. They give me the courage not to be silence anymore.

I want to ask the Board of UPenn who awarded Sukanto Tanoto the Dean Medal if they know what Sukanto has done to the family of an air crash victim before honoring him.

I want to ask the people who helped Sukanto to abuse our family what if their daughter has to go through all these at young age.


Imelda Tanoto bought a 30 million house

ACTIVITY in the Good Class Bungalow market is starting to pick up with a few deals done recently.Along Margoliouth Road off Stevens Road, a two-storey, old bungalow has changed hands for $30.8 million. This works out to $1,696 per square foot on its land area of 18,161 sq ft.

Located at a cul de sac, the freehold property has a swimming pool, five bedrooms and a maid’s room. It is likely to be redeveloped.

The property is being sold by a retiree couple. The buyer is Imelda Tanoto. The Singapore citizen owns an adjoining bungalow while her parents Sukanto Tanto own another bungalow nearby.

Ms Tanoto is the eldest daughter of Singapore-based Indonesian tycoon Sukanto Tanoto of the Royal Golden Eagle International group, a holding company with businesses in a range of industries including paper, palm oil, construction and energy. It owns Singapore-headquartered Asia Pacific Resources International Limited, one of the world’s biggest and most corrupt producers of fibre, pulp and fine paper.