BY CIEL - July 17, 2019 (español)
Washington, DC — Public officials systematically enable criminal networks to illegally harvest timber in the Peruvian Amazon, according to a new report released today by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). Authorized to Steal: Organized Crime Networks Launder Illegal Timber from the Peruvian Amazon identifies by name 34 Peruvian government officials who have been complicit in laundering timber from harvest to sale.
Authorized to Steal reveals the extent to which public officials play a role in the proliferation of illegal logging. The report analyzes more than 1,000 timber transfer permits and reveals that certain officials approved permits in zones in which more than 40% of trees approved for harvest never existed. The authors conclude that 40% is far above a reasonable margin of human error, and therefore the data strongly suggests these officials are complicit in the laundering of timber from the Peruvian Amazon. Though Peruvian law imposes criminal and administrative penalties on those involved in trafficking and selling illegally logged wood, the report finds that so few sanctions have been applied that there is little incentive to observe these laws.
“Until now, these officials have assumed that their actions would have no consequences. Today, the data speaks for itself, and these public servants who have undermined the public interest can no longer hide: they approved these documents authorizing illegal logging, thus allowing wood extracted from unauthorized zones to be backed by legal documents, and they must be held accountable,” says Rolando Navarro, Fellow at CIEL.
Illegal logging and trade in illegal timber continue at high rates in Peru, leading to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, the displacement of indigenous populations, and crime and corruption. In 2017 alone, 155,914 hectares were deforested in Peru, with one-third occurring in the Loreto and Ucayali regions, which are home to some of the most biodiverse forests on the planet.
“The international community — and timber traders worldwide — must take notice. Freshly laundered paperwork does not guarantee legally sourced timber from Peru. Peru must urgently enforce its criminal code, discipline bad actors, and seriously commit to changing current practices if it hopes to export its wood to foreign markets,” says Carla García Zendejas, Director of the People, Land, and Resources Program at CIEL. “I commend the steadfast work of those officials who have attempted for years to address systemic issues and corruption to protect the forests and the lungs of our planet, but unfortunately these initiatives have not been widespread.” The report offers a series of recommendations to different agencies involved in regulating the trade in forest products in Peru, including measures to provide greater incentives for sustainable forest management practices, promote transparency on the origins of harvested timber, conduct more investigations into the criminal networks involved in illicit environmental activities, and increase the penalties associated with environmental crime.
- Carla García Zendejas: , (202) 742-5846
The approval of Forest Transport Permits and Forest Management Plans provide the documentary basis to “prove” the legal origins of timber from Peru. While Peruvian laws have improved to curb illegal logging, the timber cartels have adapted their tactics to circumvent these laws. CIEL’s 2017 report “Continuous Improvement” in Illegal Practices in the Peruvian Forest Sector revealed that actors are exporting higher levels of timber of dubious legal origin to markets that don’t verify the legal documentation of imported wood, such as China and Mexico, suggesting that Peruvian exporters may know their products to be illegal at the time of export.
Authorized to Steal: Organized Crime Networks Launder Illegal Timber from the Peruvian Amazon details how government actors participate in these crimes by laundering illegal timber through false Forest Transport Permits and Forest Management Plans.
Additional findings include:
- 58% of Forest Transport Permits with Forest Management Plans that were supervised by OSINFOR (Peru’s forest supervision unit) appear on the “red list” because they are at high risk of involving the illegal timber trade.
- 75% of the permits with supervised Forest Management Plans from the Loreto region are on the red list.
- 26% of the permits with supervised Forest Management Plans from the Ucayali region are on the red list.
- 98% of contracts in local forests, 94% of permits on private lands, and 76% of permits in indigenous communities appear on the red list.
- OSINFOR, Peru’s Forest Resources and Wildlife Monitoring Agency determined 67% of wood felled in 2017 was logged illegally, because it could not identify the legal sources of the timber.
- The report found that 62% of the timber transported to Lima is on OSINFOR’s “red list,” and 68% transported to the Port of Callao is on the “green list,” which suggests that products selected for export (and subject to higher scrutiny) have a lower risk level than those sold in the domestic market.