On July 3, 2018, Wilmar International announced the resignation of Martua Sitorus as Non-Independent Non-Executive Director, with effective date of July 15, 2018. Sitorus is the co-founder of Wilmar and was the company’s Chief Operating Officer from July 2006 until June 2013 and Executive Deputy Chairman from July 2013 until March 2017. The SGX announcement lists “to focus on family business” as the reason for the cessation of the board position. Henri Saksti, Wilmar’s Country Head for Indonesia and Martua Sitorus’ brother in-law, is also resigning as of August 31, 2018.
The announcement comes one week after a Greenpeace report was released that linked Wilmar to deforestation because of its ties to the GAMA Group, founded by Martua Sitorus and his brother Ganda. Saksti is shareholder and commissioner in several GAMA-linked plantation companies. GAMA has been found to deforest 21,500 ha since Wilmar adopted its NDPE policy in 2013.
In a written response to Greenpeace dated June 20, 2018, Wilmar CEO Kuok Khoon Hong indicated Wilmar’s decision to “cease sourcing from all the companies that we have a commercial relationship with that are allegedly associated with GAMA Corp”.
Chain Reaction Research’s recent report “Shadow Companies Present Palm Oil Investor Risks and Undermine NDPE Efforts” showed that deforestation often occurs at related-parties that belong to the same ultimate owners as NDPE committed entities. Such controversial practices could delegitimize the NDPE efforts of palm oil traders/refiners such as Wilmar. GAMA was included as a case study in this report.