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Danish timber giant kicked out of Forest Stewardship Council certification scheme for trading illegal timber

Call for Danish and European regulators of the EU’s illegal timber ban to answer for potential failures to enforce rules against the Danish “conflict timber” trader

13th February 2015

Please email Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food, Simon Covenet, T.D., and ask him to strengten the monitoring of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) to ensure this does not happen in Ireland.

Minister's email: simon.coveney@oir.ie

Call for Danish and European regulators of the EU’s illegal timber ban to answer for potential failures to enforce rules against the Danish “conflict timber” trader

Danish timber giant Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman (DLH) has been expelled from the world’s leading timber certifier, the Forest Stewardship Council, following evidence presented by Global Witness that the company traded illegal timber linked to land grabbing in Liberia. FSC’s finding that DLH followed none of its own due diligence procedures casts serious doubt over law enforcement efforts by Danish authorities responsible for policing the import of illegal timber into Europe.

“Right now, consumers can’t be sure the wood they buy is legal and sustainable. FSC has done the right thing by expelling DLH, but it shows that you can’t even be sure that certified companies are trading legally”, said Patrick Alley, co-Director of Global Witness. “Danish authorities now need to explain why they found DLH legally compliant just months after Global Witness found illegal timber in front of its warehouse in France.”

FSC spent two months investigating Global Witness evidence that DLH purchased US$304,870 worth of timber from two Liberian companies in 2012, which was cut under illegal logging contracts called Private Use Permits (PUPs) and exported to Bangladesh, China and France. PUPs were ruled illegal by the Liberian government in December 2012, whose investigation into their use reported widespread fraud and corruption by logging companies and Liberian officials. Global Witness discovered these logs in front of DLH’s warehouse in France in February 2013, raising suspicions that DLH would illegally place the wood on the EU market after the entry into force of the EU’s Timber Regulation a month later. The Regulation requires companies to follow responsible sourcing standards, also known as due diligence, and not place illegal timber on the EU market. Enforcement authorities including the Danish Nature Agency are responsible for conducting checks on companies to ensure their compliance with the law.

“European countries like Denmark and France now have criminal sanctions to stop illegal timber traders, but authorities just aren’t coordinating properly to make sure multinational traders with subsidiaries in several countries are actually respecting the law. So far no-one has ever been prosecuted, despite billions of euros of illegal or risky timber sold in Europe every year. Authorities should now start publishing the checks they conduct on companies and coordinate properly so that consumer groups can be sure the law is being applied and all wood products in Europe are legal,” said Patrick Alley.

Global Witness submitted evidence concerning DLH, whose global headquarters is based in Denmark, to the Danish Nature Agency, the authority responsible for enforcing the EU’s Timber Regulation against the illegal timber trade. According to DLH, the Agency visited the company on 5 December 2013 and gave a “clean bill of health” to DLH’s global business two days later.[1] The Agency informed Global Witness that it had found DLH’s due diligence procedure legally compliant, but did not coordinate with other authorities to check the application of these procedures by subsidiaries in other European Member States. DLH continues to claim it is compliant with the EU law.

To regain its certification FSC requires that DLH pays compensation to the rural communities affected by their recent illegal timber trading. This case follows a history of wrongdoing in Liberia, where DLH purchased timber from a company that helped finance (now convicted war criminal) Charles Taylor’s regime during the country’s brutal civil war. Its wartime trading is now the subject of a criminal complaint in France submitted by Global Witness, Liberian NGO Green Advocates, Sherpa, and Greenpeace France.

“DLH has a horrific record of financing conflict through its timber trading during Liberia’s bloody civil war. Now they’ve been caught buying timber from the biggest land grab in Liberian history. DLH has never been brought to justice or compensated communities for the untold damage it’s caused in one of the poorest countries on earth. We welcome FSC’s requirement that DLH compensate Liberian communities. All illegal timber traders should pay reparations to those who’ve suffered as a result, but thus far DLH has enjoyed complete impunity for its illegal trade with companies linked to Charles Taylor. The EU timber law is meant to protect people and forests. Danish and European authorities have to show they can hold companies like DLH to account.”

Global Witness is calling for: Read more about this by clicking here>>>>

Tom Roche (trading as) Just Forests Ltd.
Ringfort Workshop, Rathcobican, Rhode, Offaly, Ireland
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