A four-year investigation by the US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) uncovered evidence of an illegal timber trade stretching from Chinese-owned Dejia Group in West Africa to major hardware stores located across the USA.
The timber was from the okoumé tree, classed vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with a range limited to just four African countries. US Federal officials are investigating the importers, Evergreen Hardwoods and Cornerstone Forest Products. The Dejia Group also exports to European countries where the EU Timber Regulation is in force, including France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Greece.
- United States
- Chinese-owned Dejia Group
- Cornerstone Forest Products
- Evergreen Hardwoods
- hardware stores
- illegal timber trade
- IUCN Red List
- okoumé tree
- The Dejia Group
- Timber Regulation
- US Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
- US Federal officials
In the recent Forest forum meeting we shared Complicit in Corruption - a recent report written by non-profit Earthsight, highlighting the widespread corruption in Ukraine's forests, and revealing how illegality permeates the timber supply chain in Ukraine from harvest to export.
Earthsight spent two years running field and undercover investigations in Ukraine. Approximately 70% of Ukraine's timber exports enter the EU and Earthsight's investigations indicate that 40% of this timber is being illegally harvest or traded. The report also claims that a significant volume of illegally harvested timber has received the FSC stamp - the former chief of one of the largest timber producing state-forest enterprises admitted to Earthsight he had found it easy to circumvent FSC checks.
Earlier this year Vietnam initialled a timber trade agreement with the EU that will see Vietnam implement legislation to address imports of illegally harvested and traded timber in return for timber exports to the EU. According to a recent EIA investigation, Vietnam continues its role as a serial offender in the illegal timber trade, with large volumes of illegal timber still flowing across the Cambodian border unhindered. EIA have identified three main areas within Cambodia where substantial illegal logging operations continue. EIA tracked timber from these sites is being smuggled out of Cambodia and into Vietnam across informal crossings.
Interpol has released a purple notice on 30 August about an illegal timber trading operation involving four companies in Brazil, which stems from an investigation by the Brazilian Federal Police that uncovered a technique employed by illegal timber traders in the country. The method in question involves obtaining fraudulent forest management plans that declare a higher density of a high-value timber species within a timber concession than actually exists on the ground, allowing criminals to harvest timber from unauthorized areas and report it as if it was legal. These false forest management plans are obtained through bribery or by the operators who forge them.
Myanmar’s National League for Democracy-led Government announced a national logging ban, effective immediately, which will run until the end of March 2017. Satellite data shows the tree cover in Myanmar has lost nearly 5 percent (2 million hectares) from 2001 through 2014. In 2014, Myanmar enacted a ban on raw timber exports. A driving force of Myanmar’s illegal timber trade is demand from China, and Myanmar was once China’s biggest supplier of rosewood in 2013. The demand from china declined in 2015 since China’s economy slowed, and currently, China’s timber trade with Myanmar is officially suspended.
Leaders from international indigenous and forest communities gathered in London to address the violation of human rights and land grabbing associated to the global trade of palm oil. A report last year from Fern showed that 18% of palm oil produced from illegal tropical forest destruction ends up in the EU. The community leaders are calling for the London Stock Exchange to stop trading with companies who act outside of the law as well as improvements in certification schemes in responding and investigating community complaints.
WWF is urging the European Commission to use the results of the recent surveys on implementation of the EU Timber Regulations to put more pressure on national governments and take legal action against non-compliant countries. WWF’s EU Government barometer shows that only 11 EU countries have so far adopted national legislation and procedures considered robust enough to control the legality of timber and timber products, thus leaving 17 without robust legislation. The most recent EU survey on implementation highlights Hungary, Poland, Spain, Malta, France, Greece and Italy as being among the countries failing to fully implement the regulations.
The Myanmar Timber Merchants Association claims that illegal logging incurs costs Myanmar US$ 200m every year. The most affected areas in Myanmar are Kachin and Shan states near the Myanmar-China border as well as Kayin and Kayah states near the Myanmar-Thai border.
Four Russians have been charged with smuggling timber valued at $3m per month into neighbouring China. The four are accused of using dozens of different companies and fake documents to smuggle 150 freight cars of lumber every month. Police believe the four are part of a much larger smuggling ring. Trade across the border is driven by huge Chinese demand for raw materials, and illegal trade increased dramatically after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Illegal timber trade from Russia to China in 2011 was valued at $1.3 billion, accounting for around 10 million cubic metres of logs and sawn timber.
‘Green Carbon, Black Trade’, a joint report from UNEP and INTERPOL says that $30-$100 billion of revenue are lost by key logging countries each year to the illegal timber trade. The losses are mainly attributed to key logging countries in Central Africa, the Amazon Basin and South East Asia. An editor of the report highlights how organised crime has become more sophisticated over the past decade with government websites hacked to extract logging permits, falsifying certificates and laundering timber by selling it through plantations.