Investigation reveals illegal logging by European company in DRC

By agency reporter
June 27, 2018

Global Witness has published new evidence showing a major, globally trading European company is illegally logging across huge swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rainforest – just as Norway and France are poised to fund a new programme to support the company and expand industrial logging.

A two-year investigation by the NGO found that Norsudtimber, the biggest single owner of logging concessions in the DRC, has been operating illegally on 90 per cent of its sites, an expanse of almost 40,000km2, with almost 60 per cent of the timber exported coming from endangered or vulnerable tree species. 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.

Despite this evidence, Norway and France still plan to fund an US$18 million programme which includes funding for the expansion of industrial logging in DRC – in direct contradiction of their climate and forest protection goals. The programme will also provide support to companies like Norsudtimber and Cotrefor. Cotrefor was previously exposed as having links to terrorist sanctions-listed individuals.

While their DRC forest funds – funnelled through the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) – have been temporarily frozen, Norway and France plan to proceed with the programme as soon as the DRC government meets certain conditions.

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.

The main importers of timber – China, Vietnam, France and Portugal – are also failing to stop Norsudtimber’s trading as they have either not established or not enforced existing laws banning illegal timber imports. China and Vietnam have no laws in place to prevent the import of illegal timber, while France and Portugal are failing to enforce the EU Timber Regulation.

Jules Caron, campaigner from Global Witness said: “Norsudtimber is cutting down DRC’s rainforest illegally and profiting from it, thanks to a secretive corporate structure relying on tax havens. It is no surprise that there is no rule of law in DRC, but it is shocking that Norway and France want to fund industrial exploitation of a rainforest and support law-breaking and emissions-producing companies, in direct contradiction of its climate commitments.”

“As Norway and France host major forest protection conferences this week in Oslo and Paris, they must demonstrate real commitment to fighting climate change by announcing they will not support the expansion of industrial logging in DRC’s rainforest.”

“It is not too late to halt companies like Norsudtimber in their tracks - and prevent the further destruction of one of the world’s most climate-critical rainforests.”

“Norway and France should immediately announce that they will not fund this new programme as it will also support law-breaking companies like Norsudtimber, and another company, Cotrefor, linked to terrorist-sanctions listed individuals”. 

Eva Joly, Member of the European Parliament for Europe Ecologie/Les Verts : "The revelations of the latest Global Witness report on illegal logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo are particularly worrisome. If President Macron really wants to "make our planet great again" and fight climate change, he must stop all funding going to industrial exploitation of the largest untouched tropical forest in Africa. "

 "As Global Witness demonstrates in its latest report, the environmental damages caused by massive illegal logging have enormous consequences on those living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also on global climate. France and Norway must ensure that they play no role at all in the expansion of industrial logging in the DRC, whether through financing programs or imports." 

* Download the report Total Systems Failure  here 

* Global Witness https://www.globalwitness.org/en-gb/

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