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Investigation finds illegal tropical timber from the Democratic Republic of Congo may be finding its way into European markets

04 February 2020

A report by a French news agency [1] has exposed an industrial-scale illegal logging operation linked to high-level corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following an investigation by the Rainforest Foundation UK’s (RFUK’s) partners’ and other NGOs

The journalists, led by Jerome Garro, from TF1, found that ‘Long Xin’ (formerly known as ‘Maniema Union 2’) was exonerated in May 2019, despite having been charged with illegal logging in Equateur Province. The Chinese-owned company, which illegally obtained a logging title in contravention of DRC’s national logging moratorium had been charged in March 2019, on charges of “criminal conspiracy”, “malicious destruction” and “illegal logging.”

The report, which drew on information collected by local community and civil society monitors supported by RFUK, also found that illegal timber from DRC risked finding its way into European markets despite European initiatives such as Forest, Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) and the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) designed to stop this.

RFUK and its partner in Equateur, GASHE [2], have been calling on the government and international donors to address the breakdown in forest governance in the country where clear evidence of illegal logging has all too seldom led to enforcement actions.

Joseph Bolongo, Coordinator of the ForestLink community real-time forest monitoring project for GASHE said, “The presence of illegal timber on the European Union market will undermine all the efforts of local actors, especially of local communities who have repeatedly denounced the plunder of their resources facilitated with the complicity of corrupt officials.”

Joe Eisen, RFUK’s Executive Director, added, “This report shines a light on what is far wider problem of political patronage, corruption and impunity in the logging of DRC’s forests. Efforts to improve forest governance will continue to fail so long as the central question of who ultimately owns and benefits from the country’s timber concessions remains unanswered. The intelligence provided by local communities on illegal logging has never been better, it is now time for those leading law enforcement and forest governance reforms to step up.”

[1] TF1 News report (only available in French)

[2] GASHE (Groupe d’action pour sauver l’homme et son environnement), RFUK’s local partner, is located in Mbandaka, Equateur Province, DRC. The charity aims to protect the environment and its resources whilst encouraging human development of those who live there, such as forest and indigenous communities. We have worked with GASHE since 2012 on issues such as community forestry, real-time forest monitoring and sustainable conservation.

 

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