The London office of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is claiming victory in preventing the auction of more than 25,000m3 of timber worth about US$4m going ahead in Indonesia.

It is also condemning the failure of the Indonesian police to prosecute timber barons alleged to have illegally logged the timber discovered on three Chinese ships seized by the Indonesian navy seven months ago.

The ships, their crews and cargo have been held in Jakarta since November – but were due to be released last week.

However, police said they would auction off the timber, prompting the EIA and Telapak Indonesia to call on the country’s president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to stop the sale and the release of the ships and set up an independent enquiry into the police handling of the case.

The auction, due to take place on Friday June 7, was postponed and an EIA spokesperson said: ‘We are putting that down to pressure from ourselves. They know the timber is hot and the price is too high.’

EIA director Dave Currey said: ‘After seven months of so-called investigation, the Indonesian police have shown they are incapable of prosecuting powerful timber barons. The illegal logs are on the ships, but the police claim they have no evidence.

‘Prosecute the timber barons’ responsible for this cargo now, and some of us may still believe Indonesia has a hopeful future.’