Illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon is vast in scale and scope – impacting both rainforest communities and crucial habitat.
This past August – during my first visit to the Brazilian Amazon – my Brazilian colleagues visited the land of the Ka’apor indigenous people to assist the community with remote surveillance technology and electronic tracking devices. These systems would help them to monitor illegal logging on their lands, as indigenous tribes all too often fall victim to uncontrolled and illegal logging practices.
That same month, a major police crackdown on one of the largest illegal timber trade networks ever made headlines around the world. The federal prosecutor of Santarém, Para state exposed a crime scheme extending deep into the government’s chain-of-custody system for timber. Her findings confirmed our findings about the timber sector since the publication of The Amazon’s Silent Crisis in May 2014: the entire system is so riddled with fraud that official documents accompanying Brazilian Amazon timber cannot be trusted.
It’s clear that companies buying timber from the Brazilian Amazon are taking a huge risk. Now Greenpeace is working to expose the companies that disregard the possibility of illegal activity behind the timber they purchase.
Greenpeace Brazil’s most recent investigation reveals the gamblers of the European market that bought timber directly from Madeireira Iller — the logging company, sawmill and trader that the prosecutor arrested for laundering timber through the system with the help of corrupt officials and other criminals.
In defiance of their obligations under the EU’s regulation to stem the import of illegal timber, these importers continued to ignore the evidence of widespread illegality in the Brazilian Amazon. Despite all the evidence, they trusted the official documents provided to them by their Brazilian supplier. Our investigations reveal that at least one importer in the Netherlands didn’t even bother to collect all the paperwork for the timber it bought from Madeireira Iller.
European enforcement authorities have been lenient towards the timber trade sector, creating a climate of impunity. Equally as damaging, the European importers fulfilling their legal obligations are left with a competitive disadvantage.
Until the Brazilian government brings the logging sector in the Amazon under control, buyers need to take responsibility for the wood they’re purchasing, making sure it’s been harvested legally and sustainably, or simply stop buying from high-risk regions like the Amazon.
An Lambrechts is a Senior Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace Belgium.
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