Today a team of Greenpeace activists uncovered a shipment of conflict timber from the MV Mentor in the Italian port of Salerno coming from the Liberian port Harper. Greenpeace investigations exposed the link between Italian import of logs, war and forest destruction. On May, 6th 2003 the Security Council of United Nations established a ban on Liberian timber, due to the involvement of the Liberian forest sector in illicit arms trade fuelling regional conflicts in West Africa. The ban will enter into force July 7th 2003.
The cargo is coming form Maryland Wood Processing Industries (MWPI), a Liberian timber company directly involved in arms trade, according to the UK-based NGO Global Witness. MWPI plays a key role in helping the importation of arms into Liberia through the port of Harper, which is under the management of MWPI. In 2002, it was involved in arms shipments destined for Liberian-backed rebels in Cote d'Ivoire (1).
In addition, the ship left Port Harper after the official notice on UN sanctions on Liberian timber. It was clearly an attempt to export as much Liberian timber as possible before the sanctions enter into force. Companies buying these logs are clearly aware to be partner in crime of a traffic fueling the war.
There are elements of serious concern - said Sergio Baffoni of Greenpeace - The logs could have been loaded after Port Harper was captured by rebel groups on the 16th of May. Under which legal authority had the logs been exported? Greenpeace informed the custom authority asking them to carefully investigate, and urged the government to implement immediately the UN sanctions. Liberian logs should to be sent back to the sender. Italy cannot lead the European political process to control illegal logging and trade, through the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance & Trade (FLEGT) agreement while importing logs linked to armed conflicts_Ž—.
Greenpeace calls the Italian Timber Federation to locate and expel any eventual customers of the logs coming form this shipment. In April 2002 Greenpeace and the Timber Federation signed an common engagement in stopping illegal logging, where the Federation was committed in contrasting the import in Italy of timber linked to armed conflicts. But this wood never stopped to come to Italy.