New report on European company illegally logging in DRC
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Global Witness has this week published new evidence showing a major, globally trading European company is illegally logging across huge swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rainforest. European company Norsudtimber – the biggest single owner of logging concessions covering over 40,000 km2 of rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – is operating illegally on 90% of its sites. Norsudtimber has issued a denial, included in the report, which suggests the DRC government is allowing them to continue logging in full knowledge of their legal breaches.
The report “Total Systems Failure” shows how a global web of secrecy – made up of tax havens and shell companies listed in Liechtenstein, Dubai and Hong Kong – is facilitating this illegal international trade whilst protecting three Portuguese brothers at the head of the company from scrutiny.
Some EU Member States are failing to stop Norsudtimber’s trading of illegal timber as they have not properly enforced the EU Timber Regulation since its entry into force in March 2013. Between 2013 and 2017, Norsudtimber exported to the following European countries: Portugal, France, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, and Germany, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Bulgaria, UK, Netherlands. We also identify companies importing the timber for processing in China and Vietnam which could end up on the EU market. The EU could also play a leading role in pushing Norsudtimber’s other major export markets, China and Vietnam, to regulate their imports of illegal timber, through the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan and their dialogue with those countries.
Total Systems Failure also highlights highly problematic European donor programmes for the future of Africa’s last intact rainforest in DRC. France and Norway are currently planning to fund an US$18 million programme, through the Central African Forest Initiative, which includes backing the expansion of industrial logging in DRC and support to Norsudtimber – which is headquartered in the Alpine tax haven of Liechtenstein. However, expanding industrial logging in DRC’s rainforest could generate 35 million tonnes of extra CO2 emissions per year, in direct contradiction of international climate and forest protection commitments.
We are calling on the EU and Member States to:
- Ensure that the EU’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement under negotiation with Vietnam is accompanied by regulations in Vietnam banning the import of illegal timber and requiring Vietnamese operators to conduct due diligence. Similar measures in VPA partner countries should be an essential condition of all VPAs.
- Raise concerns about China’s role in the illegal timber trade in bilateral dialogues and push for China to adopt legislation comparable to the EU Timber Regulation.
- Enforce the EU Timber Regulation by investigating EU importers who are sourcing timber or derived timber products harvested by Norsudtimber subsidiaries and associated companies to establish (a) whether they have imported illegally harvested timber or derived products and (b) whether they have exercised due diligence or due care that mitigates the risk of importing illegal timber. Sanction companies that violate their obligations under the EU Timber Regulation.
- Broaden the scope of the EU Timber Regulation to cover all products containing wood, including musical instruments, as part of the EU’s review of the EUTR’s product scope.
- Encourage national authorities responsible for enforcement of the EU Timber Regulation to investigate timber importers who are sourcing timber or derived timber products harvested by Norsudtimber subsidiaries and from associated companies, and sanction companies that violate their obligations under the regulation.
- Do not provide direct or indirect subsidies to the logging industry or financial support to the DRC government to promote or perpetuate the system of industrial logging.
For more Information, please consult the following PDF Documents: