German authorities have seized two batches of illegal timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The seizure is the strongest case of enforcement of an EU law banning the trade in illegally sourced timber which took effect in March 2013. The government action was triggered by a tip-off from Greenpeace.
“This sends a strong signal to all loggers and their buyers in Europe to steer clear of dodgy business. We urge German authorities to conduct a full inquiry and not let the companies involved off the hook,” said Danielle van Oijen, forest campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands.
EU countries must increase efforts to implement and enforce the European timber regulation, said Greenpeace. Illegal timber will continue to enter the EU market, unless strong action is taken against those who break the law.
The seized timber is from the endangered wengé tropical tree species. It was logged by Lebanese-owned Bakri Bois Corporation (BBC) in the DRC. The BBC logs were taken to the Belgian port of Antwerp in April 2013 for Swiss-based timber trader Bois d'Afrique Mondiale and were eventually placed on the EU market by three German timber companies. A separate batch ended up in the Czech Republic for processing.
“Illegal and destructive logging must stop for the sake of the forests and the millions of people who depend on them. The Congolese government should cancel BBC's illegal concession contract and investigate and prosecute anybody involved in a suspected falsification of official documents. Not one splinter of illegal wood from the DRC must find its way to Europe,” said Raoul Monsembula, country coordinator for Greenpeace Africa in the DRC.
The timber was logged under an illegal concession contract, according to a government-approved report by independent DRC forest observer Resource Extraction Monitoring. A joint field mission by Greenpeace Africa, Global Witness and local NGOs confirmed these independent reports and found other cases of irregularities.