Brazil laundering illegal timber on a ‘massive scale’

“The government is failing to inspect, or verify when they grant permission for logging,” said Astrini. “The government system is weak, insecure and incapable of assuring customers that they are buying sustainable timber. As a result, buyers in Brazil and overseas are involuntarily financing crime.”

The government has recognized problems in the system, though it disputes the scale of the illegal logging. Last month, the Brazilian Environment Ministry said fraud in Pará was responsible for the unlawful sale of 26.8 million cubic meters of forest products.

It admitted that the control system used by the state is also flawed. In Santarem – one of the biggest cities in Pará – the authorities are also investigating a local environment ministry chief who is alleged to have colluded with logging firms.

Government officials say they have identified the loopholes and are acting to tighten the system. But federal prosecutors in Pará are unconvinced by the results so far.

“Certainly the situation is not improving. It may be the same as before or it may be getting worse,” said Bruno Valente, the federal prosecutor in Pará State.

He said the authorities needed to tighten the control system and increase the number of monitors checking the veracity of logging claims.

Cleared rainforest close to the city of Altamira. A Greenpeace team in the area claims illegal logging and land grabs have been occurring. Photograph: Daniel Beltr/Greenpeace

Greenpeace also alleged that UK high street building supply chain Jewson had been selling Ipe wood from Para state without being able to show the documents that prove it is not illegal.

“Jewson sources its timber, including the rare species Ipe, from International Timber,” said a Greenpeace spokesman. Both are owned by the French multinational, Saint Gobain.

Greenpeace’s spokesman added: “We asked Jewson what steps it was taking to ensure its Brazilian timber was legal. The company said it ‘fully recognized the importance of auditable and independent certification’ and said its ‘priority was always to ask for Chain of Custody certified product wherever possible’.”

The environment group group has asked the UK National Measurements Office to conduct urgent checks on Jewson and other companies known to be importing Brazilian Amazon timber into the UK.

A spokesman for Jewson said: “Jewson fully recognizes its obligation in regards to the important issue of the importation of timber and acts strictly in accordance with the EU timber regulation. Jewson primarily acts as a trader in relation to these regulations and as such its obligation relates primarily to keeping detailed records of the sources of all timber purchased and where this timber is then sold.

“Jewson also complies with the UK government’s timber procurement policy, which additionally requires that only timber and wood-derived products originating from an independently verifiable legal and sustainable source will be purchased for use on the government estate, with documentation required to prove it.

“With regards specifically to Brazilian timber we are committed to ensure the legality of our timber, and take extensive steps to gather all the necessary evidence from suppliers regarding its legality including the collection of the following documents: The validated authorisation of the landowner with the document which defines the longitude and latitude areas and volume of the area, together with the sale agreement between the landowner and logger: GF3 and DOF and PEFC or FSC if appropriate.

“Jewson is very happy to work closely with Greenpeace and other similar organizations in order to address any specific questions they may have in a constructive and collaborative way.

“At this stage, however, Jewson have not been presented with any specific, detailed questions, or allegations about illegal timber. If they were, this would be treated extremely seriously and would be investigated and appropriate action taken immediately.”

Source | TheGuardian

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

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