This is the third of a series of articles resulting from a yearlong investigation into Paper Excellence, already Canada’s largest pulp and paper producer following its 2022 acquisition of Domtar and now much bigger following its March 1 takeover of North American logging giant, Resolute Forest Products. These articles are part of “Deforestation Inc.” a collaboration of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 39 media outlets, involving 140 journalists in 27 countries. The Examiner partnered with journalists in France (Le Monde, Radio France), Canada (CBC, Glacier Media), and the United States (Inside Climate News) to produce this series. This article delves into leaked correspondence that reveals business links between Paper Excellence and Asia Pulp & Paper, the companies’ denials those links exist, possible reasons for the conflicting narratives – and why it matters.

Paper Excellence is the secretive private corporate empire owned by Jackson Wijaya that has been voraciously swallowing up pulp and paper conglomerates — and the access to forest resources that go with them — in Canada.

In recent years, Paper Excellence has pushed back repeatedly against any reports that link it with the Sino-Indonesian conglomerate, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), part of the massive Sinar Mas Group conglomerate headed by Jackson Wijaya’s father, Tejuh Ganda Widjaja.

APP has been accused of deforestation, human rights violations, illegal logging and timber trade, and has been taken to court by disgruntled creditors following its US$13.9 billion default in 2001.

APP and Paper Excellence are each giants in the planetary pulp and paper pantheon. Taken together, their annual revenue surpasses any other pulp and paper company.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) scoured company documents and calculated that in 2021, the combined revenue of Paper Excellence and of Resolute Forest Products that it now owns was US$10.4 billion, and Asia Pulp & Paper’s (China and Indonesia combined) was US$14.8 billion.

Thus the combined revenue for what are now Wijaya-family-owned pulp and paper conglomerates was US$25.2 billion, the highest in the world, much higher than their nearest rivals International Paper (US$19.3 billion) and West Rock (US$18.7 billion), and nearly twice as much as fourth place Oji Holdings at US$12.8 billion.

But, as we said at the outset, Paper Excellence is categorical that Paper Excellence and APP are not connected, telling ICIJ, “Paper Excellence is owned solely by Jackson Wijaya and is completely independent from Asia Pulp & Paper.”

An investigation by the Halifax Examiner with media partners in Canada, France, and the United States — part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) “Deforestation Inc.” collaboration — paints a far, far more complex picture of the Wijaya family businesses.

Leaked correspondence reveals that Paper Excellence, owned by Jackson Wijaya, has worked closely on sensitive business deals with Asia Pulp & Paper, owned and chaired by his father, Teguh Ganda Widjaja.

The ICIJ investigation also confirmed the names of at least 13 people who have held high-level positions in both Paper Excellence and APP / Sinar Mas, including some who held those positions simultaneously, among them Jackson Wijaya himself.

This raises doubt about the claims that Paper Excellence operates “completely independently” from APP and the Sinar Mas Group, as Paper Excellence stated in its response to the authors of the October 2022 report “Papering over corporate control: Paper Excellence’s relationship with Asia Pulp & Paper and the Sinar Mas Group.”

And it raises the question of why the two corporate groups — owned by members of the same family — so adamantly deny there is a relationship between them, something we’ll explore further in this series.

‘APP is a very different place’

Since Jim, the whistleblower mentioned in the first article in this series, first contacted the Halifax Examiner in February 2022, he has spoken several times and at length with journalists in Canada and France about his experience at Asia Pulp & Paper in Shanghai, where he says he often worked on projects for Paper Excellence.

A meeting room in a high rise with a white table and eight black office chairs around it, a telephone in its centre, with wrap-around windows offering a view of Shanghai skyline towers and a blue partly cloudy sky.
An APP meeting room in the Sinar Mas Plaza, formerly White Magnolia Plaza in Shanghai. Credit: contributed

Jim left APP before 2020, but while he was there he says Jackson Wijaya had an office in the upper reaches of the White Magnolia Plaza (also known as the Sinar Mas Plaza) in Shanghai, although Wijaya was coming and going to Canada.

“It was grandiose, the environment at the office,” says Jim. “It was a bit intimidating. You’d see these ornaments from ancient China, very well decorated. The Wijayas [some family members spell the name “Widjaja”] have impeccable taste, I will tell you that. They have the money for it as well. They basically made one of the nicest offices in Shanghai.”

Still, says Jim, “It was one of the most absurd work environments that I’ve ever been, in a dystopic way.”

“What you realized was that teams were competing against each other, and there were several teams that weren’t allowed to speak to each other despite sitting just 50 feet away,” he says.

ICIJ partners reached out to numerous former APP and Paper Excellence employees to obtain their views of the companies.

Many did not respond to inquiries. Others said they had signed non-disclosure agreements, or just wouldn’t speak about previous employers, while others declined because they are still involved in the industry and fear repercussions.

A few agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

“Ken” is one of those. He worked for nearly a decade for Asia Pulp & Paper, leaving in 2019.

When Ken was recruited, he was told he would be reporting to Jackson Wijaya.

“Jackson was CEO of Asia Pulp & Paper China,” Ken says, and Jackson had “four or five” mills under his control.

But when he began work, Ken says “the unofficial chart” they gave him had lines going to three people.

It was always “a little confusing,” Ken explains, because one of his bosses was “actually not a member of the corporation, but was the `father-in-law of Jackson. So he was probably the main person I would end up reporting to. But [it’s] a family-run corporation, family members play a big role, whether they’re listed or not.”

Ken says Jackson Wijaya’s father-in-law was “kind of a mysterious entity,” and he lived in Taiwan.

“APP is a very different place. Organizational issues always left me a little confused,” he says, adding:

If I had been an internal mole trying to pin down everything and map out the organization’s real organizational chart and what it did would have been a very interesting and difficult project.

Jackson Wijaya was still attending APP meetings in 2018, Ken recalls. But he is not sure if Wijaya was still CEO of APP China, as he recalls him  “transitioning” to Canada around this time.

“Maybe his [Jackson Wijaya’s] official title was gone, but he was still the son of the chairman [of APP],” says Ken.

ICIJ partners at CBC found documents filed with the British Columbia land ownership transparency registry show Jackson Wijaya is an Indonesian citizen and a resident of Hong Kong.[1]

However, this 2015 article says Wijaya, then 35 years old, lives in Vancouver.

A search of the British Columbia land registry by ICIJ partner Glacier Media shows at least 240 properties under Jackson Wijaya’s name, including at least 1,700 acres zoned as cattle ranch on the shore of Kamloops Lake, a $6.8 million piece of land in Surrey, and a $63.5 million commercial property in Coquitlam. The property records show Wijaya’s primary residence is in China, and that he is neither a permanent resident nor citizen of Canada.

In response to ICIJ questions, APP stated that, “Jackson Wijaya has never been the CEO of APP China. Nor has he had decision-making authority with respect to APP China.”

Paper Excellence said the same: “Mr. Wijaya has never been CEO of APP China.”

Asia Pulp & Paper told ICIJ it is “not in a position to comment” on Wijaya’s place of residence. Paper Excellence confirmed that Wijaya is an Indonesian citizen, but did not specify his country of residence, saying, “The scale and nature of the Paper Excellence group is such that Jackson spends time in the Americas, Europe and Asia as business demands. We remind you he is a private citizen.”

French connections

Under a blue sky with faint cloud cover, a tall red and white smokestack emits greyish plume from this pulp mill in Tarascon, France, owned by Paper Excellence.
Paper Excellence owns Fibre Excellence, which has two pulp mills in southern France. This one is in Tarascon. Credit: Anne-Laure Barrall / Radio France

Paper Excellence also owns Fibre Excellence, with two pulp mills in southern France, in Tarascon and in Saint-Gaudens.

A former high-level executive with Fibre Excellence tells ICIJ partner Radio France that during his tenure from 2010 to 2014, he saw APP chair Teguh Widjaja (Jackson Wijaya’s father) several times in Vancouver and in Shanghai, and that the APP chair was directly involved in decisions for Paper Excellence companies.

ICIJ partner Le Monde also spoke with a former Fibre Excellence executive, who reported that he was directly in contact with APP in China, where his boss was based, and there were monthly video conferences with APP boss Teguh Widjaja. “It’s extremely nebulous, you never know who employs whom,” he told Le Monde.

Related ICIJ partner Le Monde report: Le tour de passe-pass de deux groupes pour dévorer le marché mondial du paper

Related ICIJ partner France TV Info report: “Deforestation Inc” : derrière deux usines de pâte à papier françaises, un groupe indonésien impliqué dans la déforestation

As well, in 2012, Mac Anderson, the general manager of MacKenzie Fibre Management Corporation, of which Paper Excellence owns a 75% stake, told a British Columbia parliamentary committee on timber supply that “Paper Excellence is owned by a company called Sinar Mas. Sinar Mas has over 32 pulp mills worldwide. They have some of the largest pulp mills in the world. They have a number of other companies — Asia Pulp and Paper, etc.”

As recently as 2017, bond offering documents filed in Hong Kong show Jackson Wijaya was “assistant president” of the Sinar Mas Paper (China) Investment Company. Those documents describe Asia Pulp & Paper as a “Singapore-based company under the Sinar Mas Group, which is in turn owned by the Widjaja family of Indonesia, and is primarily engaged in pulp and paper production.” [2]

Since Wijaya was also said to be the owner of Paper Excellence at that time, it stretches credulity that there was real separation — except perhaps on paper — between Paper Excellence and Sinar Mas/APP.

A complex graphic with small circles of various colours representing different companies and arrows linking them, to show Jackson Wijaya's links to APP China between 2007 and 2017.
Figure 11 from “Papering Over Corporate Control” report, showing Jackson Wijaya’s connections to APP China (2007-2017) Credit: Environmental Paper Network, Greenpeace, Woods & Wayside, and the Rainforest Action Network

APP again countered this, reiterating earlier statements that any “suggestion that Paper Excellence is part of the same corporate group” as Asia Pulp & Paper is “not correct.”

And as noted already, Paper Excellence told ICIJ it is “completely independent from Asia Pulp & Paper.”

Paper Excellence also provided this statement about Jackson Wijaya:

In the early years, he benefited from some of the knowledge and relationships through his father to help establish his business, which is why you noted some connections like your decade-old letterhead and employees that worked for both companies in the early years. But eventually Jackson was able to get Paper Excellence to a point where it was able to proceed alone, without anything more than normal and appropriate business relationships, predominantly through third-party sellers.

‘A network of shell companies’

According to Jim, much of the Paper Excellence pulp goes to China to feed Asia Pulp & Paper mills.

Jim alleges that all of this is orchestrated by Wijaya family companies that “operate though a complex network of shell companies” that make “twists and turns” through popular tax havens.

ICIJ asked APP if it purchases pulp from Paper Excellence and its subsidiaries. The reply: “APP is not a direct customer of Paper Excellence.”

Paper Excellence didn’t answer specific questions about its pulp sales to APP and other companies owned by members of the Wijaya family, some of which are facing allegations of environmental and human rights abuses. Instead, Paper Excellence provided this statement:

Paper Excellence sells pulp directly to end-user customers and also to trading companies, brokers and other intermediaries. When our product is sold through third parties, which are independent, Paper Excellence has no control over the ultimate destination of its product, which is commonplace within the industry. We would note that, as a commodity, pulp is bought, sold and traded similar to many other commodities. Since APP is a major player in the pulp and paper industry that is known to require significant volumes of pulp, it is no surprise that APP would be an end-user of certain of Paper Excellence-produced pulp.

Jim says that for a long time after Asia Pulp & Paper defaulted on US$13.9 billion no Western bank would touch the Wijaya family’s businesses “with a ten-foot pole, or an even longer pole.”

He is referring to the 2001 default that was the “biggest by an emerging markets corporate name,” and set a “dubious record” that Asia Pulp & Paper still holds today, according to Sara Webb’s 2016 Euromoney article, “The untouchables — Indonesia’s Widjajas.” 

‘Treating their own companies as piggy banks’

A 2003 Wall Street Journal article by the late Timothy Mapes noted that two years after the default, the Wijayas remained “firmly in control” of APP, and were “pushing ahead with an ambitious expansion into China,” while most of their creditors, “including almost every major international bank, many pension funds and the U.S. government” still hadn’t seen “a dime of what the company owes them.”

At one court hearing, an attorney for Deutsche Bank that was owed US$193 million, said the Widjaja family had been “treating their own companies as piggy banks.”

However, wrote Mapes, “Not all APP creditors have been shut out. The company paid Chinese banks about $700 million in the first year after APP declared a standstill on debt payments in March 2001.”

According to Sara Webb writing in 2016 in Euromoney:

What particularly riled creditors and investors at the time of the showdown, as they tried to negotiate debt repayments, was the discovery that APP and other companies in the Sinar Mas Group had carried out several highly-questionable transactions, often with related parties, that resulted in further losses of at least [US]$1 billion.

Like Mapes, Webb noted the differential treatment for Chinese banks:

With several state-of-the-art mills located in China, APP feared these assets could be seized by the mainland banks: so it ring-fenced its Chinese operations from its Indonesian assets, kept the Chinese banks separate from its other creditors, and eventually spun off APP China in a debt-for-equity swap that gave the Widjaja family a substantial stake.

Despite its financial history and the default “fiasco,” Webb wrote that APP was still able to raise funds.

In 2013, the China Development Bank loaned APP US$1.8 billion for OKI Pulp & Paper Mills (OKI), which would be Indonesia’s largest pulp mill. Announcing the loan, APP stated:

The transaction, which was witnessed by Indonesian and Chinese Presidents, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Xi Jin Ping, is one of the largest ever single transactions between the two countries. The total investment in the new mill, located in South Sumatra, is [US]$2.6 billion, most of which is funded through the CDB loan, with the remaining [US]$800 million funded by capital raised by the shareholders.

Webb reported that a year and a half later, “Sinar Mas secured another [US]$1.5 billion in loans from China Development Bank and ICBC [Industrial and Commercial Bank of China] Financial Leasing, half of which was earmarked for OKI.”

Creditors mum on repayment

In its response to the authors of the 2022 report, “Papering over corporate control,” APP said the default took place under extraordinary circumstances brought about by the Asian Financial crisis, and that, “Since then, a restructuring has taken place with repayment to creditors accelerated.”

ICIJ asked APP which creditors, and how much they have been repaid. APP’s reply:

Under the restructuring that we previously replied about, all creditors were paid in full. This included export credit agencies, banks, financial institutions, local bondholders and international bondholders.

However, an industry analyst who asked for anonymity said, “APP creditors were obliged to take a haircut and accept less than full value on their investment because of the restructuring agreement, and it took years of legal wrangling to get even that.”

One of the creditors was U.S. Bank, which went to court in New York in 2002 to recoup more than US$850 million it was owed by APP.[3] U.S. Bank is now providing financing for the Domtar (Paper Excellence) acquisition of Resolute Forest Products. The Halifax Examiner asked U.S. Bank to confirm how much it was able to recoup from APP following the restructuring, and whether its earlier experience with APP was considered when it decided to finance the Resolute deal. A spokesperson said the bank had no comment at this point.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was also part of banking syndicates that were APP creditors,[4] and RBC is also one of the institutions financing the Resolute deal. The Examiner contacted RBC, and five other APP creditors to ask how much they recouped of what they were owed and if they were satisfied by the restructuring agreement.  To date, none has answered those questions.[5]

We’ll revisit the default and Canada’s reaction to it later in this series.

Out of the mess, Paper Excellence arises

Meanwhile, as APP’s creditors struggled for years in the courts to recoup their losses, a whole new company owned by a member of the Wijaya family was born — Paper Excellence.

The new company’s sights were not set on Asia, but on the Americas and Europe.

A large white and blue billboard sign in Powell River for the Catalyst tiskwat pulp mill that Paper Excellence bought in 2019 and has now closed. Grass and a small chain fence in front of the sign and trees and blue sky behind it.
Paper Excellence bought in 2019 then closed this Catalyst tiskwat mill in Powell River, BC. Credit: Joan Baxter

According to its website, the Paper Excellence Group was founded in 2006, and the “Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp’s [Saskatchewan] purchase in 2007 marked Paper Excellence’s entry into the Canadian pulp and paper market.”

A letter with a corporate logo.
Correspondence between Meadow Lake Mechanical Pump and Saskatchewan’s environment department in May 2008 identified Meadow Lake Mechanical Pump as “a division of Sinarmas Group.” Credit: ICIJ

However, at the time of the purchase, and in the first few years afterwards, in correspondence between Meadow Lake Mechanical Pump and Saskatchewan’s environment department, Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp identified itself as a “division of Sinarmas Group.”

The name Paper Excellence didn’t appear on these documents. Indeed, Paper Excellence wasn’t even registered in Canada until 2010.

Between 2010 and 2014, Paper Excellence went on a buying spree in the western hemisphere that included the two mills in southern France, a mill in Germany that was sold in 2016, another in Saskatchewan, four more in British Columbia, and Northern Pulp in Nova Scotia.

A white billboard with red and blue lettering surrounded by trees and shrubs, that reads "Welcome to our mill. This is our time. We have the right product. We have the right owner and the right people!"
The sign at the loading entrance to Northern Pulp’s mill in Nova Scotia declaring “We have the right owner” and “This is our time.” Credit: Joan Baxter

In 2019, Paper Excellence acquired Catalyst Paper and its three mills in British Columbia. Two years later it announced that its full acquisition of Eldorado in Brazil was going ahead, although a new injunction on February 17, 2023 has once again put that on hold.

In late 2021, Paper Excellence also acquired Domtar, giving it a huge presence in North America. 

A pale bluish map of North America surrounded by darker blue representing oceans showing all the locations of Domtar facilities in North America from the west coast across to Georgia and Montreal.
Locations of Domtar facilities in North America, now owned by Paper Excellence Credit: Domtar website

Now that Paper Excellence has absorbed the logging giant Resolute Forest Products, it is a huge pulp and paper power on the continent. In 2021 Resolute had sales of $3.7 billion, marketed products — pulp, tissue, wood products and paper — in more than 60 countries, and owned 40 facilities in the United States and Canada, including four pulp mills, four tissue factories, 22 wood products facilities, seven paper mills, and 13 power generation stations, not to mention vast areas of Canadian forest (20 million hectares) it manages.

Even without Resolute, a 2021 report by Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) calculated that Paper Excellence and Domtar already had a combined capacity more than twice that of Canfor, their nearest competitor in Canada.

Which is another reason why Canadians should know just who Paper Excellence is and who controls it, and why they should be concerned that it’s so difficult to find out.

‘Part of Sinar Mas’

The immediate parent of Paper Excellence Canada Holdings Corporation is Paper Excellence B.V., with an address of convenience — De Cuserstraat 91, 1081 CN Amsterdam — in the Netherlands. Paper Excellence B.V. shares that address with its affiliates Karta Halten B.V. and Hervey Investment B.V., which owns 70% of Northern Pulp and its affiliates that are under creditor protection in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

The Netherlands ranks fourth on the Tax Justice Network’s 2021 Corporate Tax Haven index of jurisdictions that it describes as the “most complicit in helping multinational corporations underpay corporate income tax.”

The authors of the October 2022 report, “Papering over corporate control,” note that Paper Excellence’s corporate structure, like that of Sinar Mas and APP, is complex and opaque, with “an extensive network of corporate entities registered in offshore jurisdictions characterized by high levels of corporate secrecy.”

Complex graphic with a network of blue circles representing Paper Excellence companies and different colour hexagons representing shareholding companies linked at the top by lines to a red triangle representing Jackson Wijaya Limantara
Figure 6 from 2022 “Papering over corporate control” report showing shareholder companies of Paper Excellence mills in Canada, France and Brazil, and of Domtar in the U.S. Credit: Environmental Paper Network, Freenpeace, Woods & Wayside International, Rainforest Action Network

When Paper Excellence first began buying up mills in Europe and Canada, the media generally identified Paper Excellence B.V. as a “unit of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas” (Reuters), or a “sister company to Asian Pulp and Paper” (Print Business), or “controlled by Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) of Singapore, which is, in turn, controlled by Sinar Mas” (PaperMoney).

There seemed to be no question that Paper Excellence was an extension of Sinar Mas, and part of the group’s “ambitious plans to enter pulp manufacturing” in Canada.

But in recent years Paper Excellence has been trying very hard to change the narrative, denying the Paper Excellence Group has any kind of relationship with or links to Asia Pulp & Paper and Sinar Mas.

NS Premier McNeil visits Paper Excellence … in China

In 2014, when then-Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil was heading to Asia on a trade mission, a press release from the premier’s office said that while he was in Shanghai, he would “meet with Paper Excellence, owners of the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County, to reiterate the provincial government’s position on cleaning up emissions from the site.”

A Freedom of Information request to the Nova Scotia Office of the Premier for all documentation on any McNeil’s visits to Paper Excellence in Shanghai, including on meetings he had with representatives of the company during any of his trips to China, turned up “no records” for that request.

But a Saltwire media report at the time said he met in Shanghai with “Pedro Chang, deputy CEO, David Kerr, VP operations Paper Excellence Canada and Jackson Wijaya, chairman Paper Excellence.”

The question is: why would the premier of Nova Scotia be meeting with Paper Excellence executives in China when its website then — like now — says it is “headquartered in British Columbia”?

Even Paper Excellence seems on occasion to be confused about where its own headquarters are to be found. A 2021 press release on the completion of its acquisition of Domtar says the Paper Excellence Group is “headquartered in Southern California.” 

Statistics Canada says Paper Excellence is owned by APP

In his response to authors of the October 2022 report on Paper Excellence links to APP and Sinar Mas, Graham Kissack, Paper Excellence vice president environment, health and safety, challenged the accuracy of Statistics Canada’s inter-corporate Ownership database that shows Paper Excellence is owned and controlled by the Sinar Mas Group. 

The Paper Excellence website in the background and dimmed with a pop-up rectangle featuring a headshot of a smiling man with dark hair, and open collar shirt and dark jacket, with his bio to the right.
Paper Excellence vice president environment, health and safety, Graham Kissack Credit: Paper Excellence website

According to Statistics Canada, “The Inter-corporate ownership product is the most authoritative and comprehensive source of information available on corporate ownership; a unique directory of ‘who owns what’ in Canada. It provides up-to-date information reflecting recent corporate takeovers and other substantial changes.” [emphasis in the original]

Kissack apparently disagrees.

“Put simply, it [the inter-corporate ownership database] is incorrect,” Kissack wrote to the October 2022 report authors. “We went through the process of having this corrected last year in connection with the acquisition of Domtar and understood that it had been changed. We are distressed that this database is wrong and will take steps to clarify the matter with StatsCan.” 

In a second letter to the report authors, Kissack said, “ … the point that we intend to clarify is that Paper Excellence is not owned or controlled by APP or Sinar Mas and that any assertion to that effect in the StatsCan database needs to be corrected.”

The Examiner filed an access to information request to Statistics Canada for all correspondence from Sinar Mas, APP, or Paper Excellence representatives between January 2020 and January 2023.

The correspondence released shows that someone from the public affairs firm PAA contacted Statistics Canada on October 6, 2022 on behalf of Paper Excellence saying the “assertions” about connections between Sinar Mas/ APP and Paper Excellence on the inter-corporate ownership database were “incorrect and without factual foundation.”

Unfortunately, the crucial “findings” by Statistics Canada staff on the six companies (Paper Excellence B.V., Hervey Investments B.V., Elite Shine Investments Ltd, MacKenzie Pulp Mill Corporation, Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp Inc., and Paper Excellence Canada Holdings Corporation) that were in question in the Statistics Canada internal correspondence were redacted in the correspondence provided to the Examiner.

However, on October 13, 2022, Statistics Canada’s director responsible for the inter-corporate ownership report wrote to PAA to say:

As of July 06th 2022, the information we have directs us to believe that Paper Excellence is ultimately owned by Sinar Mas. It there are [sic] any information that contradicts this, we would greatly appreciate insight as this would help us correct the structure. At the moment there are no record of any information to contradict this.

If Paper Excellence sent Statistics Canada any information after that October 2022 email to clarify the ownership of Paper Excellence, it doesn’t show up in the information released to the Examiner.

ICIJ asked Paper Excellence if the company had submitted any new information to Statistics Canada since then, and if so, if it could provide a copy of what it sent. Paper Excellence replied:

Statistics Canada has informed Paper Excellence that it did not have actual share information regarding an owner relationship between Paper Excellence and APP and that any such linkage determination was based on internet research, including media reports. As these media reports were inaccurate, Paper Excellence is working with Statistics Canada to rectify the error.

Kissack: Paper Excellence ‘entirely independent’ of APP

In November 2022, Kissack also wrote to the Halifax Examiner, saying he had been asked to “address one issue” in an October article that he claimed was “factually incorrect.” He referenced this sentence:

Northern Pulp is a Paper Excellence company, and thus part of the vast and immensely wealthy corporate empire of the Widjaja family, which includes Asia Pulp & Paper and the Sinar Mas Group.

Kissack continued:

In fact, Paper Excellence is entirely independent of both Asia Pulp & Paper and of the Sinar Mas Group. While Mr. Jackson Wijaya is a member of the Wijaya family, his business interests are completely separate from those you mention and of other members of the Wijaya family. We are aware that there are sources that make such a connection and we are in the process of correcting them to accurately reflect the facts of the ownership and control of Paper Excellence.

He asked that a correction be posted to the article.

It wasn’t.

There is nothing factually incorrect about the statement in the article; Paper Excellence is owned by a member of the Wijaya family, thus it is part of the Widjaja/Wijaya family’s corporate empire.[6]

Leaked correspondence tells a different story

By this time, ICIJ partners had seen leaked internal correspondence from 2017 and 2018 between Asia Pulp & Paper employees working closely with Paper Excellence executives on a range of projects, including preparation of the submission to China’s anti-trust regulators about Paper Excellence’s acquisition of the Eldorado mill in Brazil.

The correspondence reveals that during that time APP staff in Shanghai worked closely with a law firm in China on behalf of Paper Excellence to prepare its submission and answer questions for China’s anti-trust agency.

Even as an APP employee handling legal matters was communicating with Paper Excellence to develop answers for the Chinese anti-trust agency, the same APP employee wrote that Paper Excellence and APP “do not share information to each other.”

In an email discussion with Edwin Widjaja of Paper Excellence and Jerome Delaly of Fibre Excellence in France, Richard Pho, whose LinkedIn identifies him as APP Deputy General Manager in the chairman’s office, requests that in future they use a Paper Excellence email address for him (it contains a pseudonym not his own name) and he asks Widjaja to inform all at Paper Excellence.

Asked if the two companies ever exchanged any information when preparing submissions to anti-trust agencies about Paper Excellence acquisitions, or if APP employees have worked with Paper Excellence employees on its behalf, APP replied:

APP has not shared confidential information with Paper Excellence. Nor has its employers [sic] engaged in any work with Paper Excellence.

Paper Excellence did not answer ICIJ questions about Paper Excellence and APP employees corroborating on submissions to anti-trust regulators, saying they cannot respond to “unnamed sources.”

Expert Richard Schwindt comments

Richard Schwindt is a former economist at Simon Fraser University, a former investigator with Canada’s Competition Bureau, and the first person to lead a Royal Commission into corporate consolidation in Canada’s forest industry.

ICIJ partner Glacier Media shared the leaked correspondence between APP and Paper Excellence with Schwindt, and asked him what it says about the links between the two companies.

“I’ve never seen [anything like this] what appears to be obfuscation of corporate links,” said Schwindt. “It’s quite clear from the communications that are going on that they’re chatting about everything, including investments, and pricing. That kind of conversation, of course, you wouldn’t be having with somebody that you are operating arm’s length from. It would be… it’s not commercially sensible.”

“I’ve never run into this,” Schwindt said. “They’re linked. This is a connection, clearly.”

Asked if he saw any problems with the increased concentration of control of the pulp and paper industry in Canada with the Paper Excellence mergers, Schwindt replied:

When you have a small number of buyers for the fibre… they’re going to be able to exercise market power, and by market power we mean lower prices, or… asking actually for subsidies, capital subsidies to upgrade mills. It’s always a danger. 

Schwindt noted that Paper Excellence’s Crofton mill in British Columbia, which had ceased operations in 2022, had just received a large injection of public money to re-open. In January 2023 the federal and British Columbia governments provided Paper Excellence with $18.8 million to retool the Crofton mill.

Schwindt also pointed out that pulp mill owners are buyers of labour. 

“And if you only have one employer, the power in the negotiation tilts towards the single buyer,” Schwindt said.

They’re getting lobbying power, dealing with the government because the government is the owner of the resource. And what they want, of course, is full employment and maintenance in more remote communities. And if the company can promise that for a certain amount of money, they’re more likely to get it if they’re the only game in town. 

Schwindt, who spent decades investigating forest cartels and has dealt with a lot of mergers, said he’s never run into the kind of obfuscation that he saw in the leaked APP and Paper Excellence correspondence.

“What’s disconcerting is it was patently false. APP and PE [Paper Excellence] exchange [at least were exchanging during the two years of the leaked correspondence] information that no truly independent firms would exchange. This is a simple fact,” said Schwindt. “They’re clearly connected and regulators around the world should know this. Particularly because there seems to be efforts to obfuscate this.”

However, Schwindt noted, “Lying is not against the law.”

Next in the series: Paper Excellence now has access to 22 million hectares of Canadian woodlands, and critics are calling the Indonesian-owned corporation’s rapid expansion in Canada a ‘fibre grab’ to feed pulp and paper mills with high quality kraft pulp in China.


[1] British Columbia Land Owner Transparency documents for Catalyst Paper Corporation Crofton Mill properties in BC show Jackson Wijaya as the “principal interest holder” and give his principal residence as Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong and his country of citizenship as Indonesia.

[2] The “substantial shareholders” of documents (Green Fortunate Capital Limited bonds due and unconditionally guaranteed by APP Ever Dragon Investments Group) filed in Hong Kong 2019 are “Mr. Oei Tjie Goan [Jackson Wijaya’s father], and/or any of this associates and/or immediate family members.”

[3] In March 2010, U.S. Bank National went to the Supreme Court of the State of New York against APP International Finance Company B.V. and affiliates seeking to recoup a total of $851,323,323 “together with interest from March 10, 2005,” that remained “due and unpaid.”

[4] Paper Tiger, Hidden Dragons: The responsibility of international financial institutions for Indonesian forest destruction, social conflict and the financial crisis of Asia Pulp & Paper. 2001. Written by Ed Matthew, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales & Northern Ireland) and Jan Willem van Golder, Profundo

[5] The Examiner contacted Deustche Bank, ABN Amro, John Hancock Funds, Oaktree Capital Management, Gramercy Advisors and the Royal Bank of Canada. ABN Amro explained that the current company was formed in 2010 following a merger, and that data from Asian clients of ABN Amro from 2001 is not accessible.  The others either declined to comment or did not get back to us.

[6] The “substantial shareholders” of APP Ever Dragon Investments in documents filed in Hong Kong in 2019 are “Mr. Oei Tjie Goan [Jackson Wijaya’s father], and/or any of this associates and/or immediate family members.”

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Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website:; Twitter @joan_baxter

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  1. Excellent reporting. This whole mess is very scary and getting scarier with each new report in this series. Very well done. Thank you all for bringing this to us.