TV program reveals Holzindustrie Schweighofer’s involvement in illegal timber trade
A video released by the Romanian investigative program In Premiera in November 2015, titled Timber Makes the World Go Round, has been rereleased this week with English subtitles. The video paints a vivid picture of illegalities at three stages of timber supply chains leading to Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer), an Austrian timber company which has grown to become the largest buyer of softwoods in Romania. Schweighofer’s role in incentivizing and receiving illegal timber in Romania was recently featured in a detailed EIA report, released in October 2015.
The video shows organized criminal networks laundering illegal timber with the complicity of corrupt government officials. Dubious commercial entities create fake paperwork to legitimize illegal cutting; the paperwork is then accepted by Schweighofer officials on a no-questions-asked premise. Additionally, forest inspectors ignore illegalities and bribery is commonplace. If and when activists speak out against the corruption, they are threatened.
Drawing from interviews with two former Romanian Environmental Ministers, current and former forestry officials, and a wood delivery driver, the short film provides testimony on illegal logging in Romania and adds to the mounting evidence of Schweighofer’s knowing acceptance of illegal timber trade in Romania.
In one powerful scene, the journalist behind this documentary is violently threatened by a forester and a sawmill owner in a forest in the region of Apuseni National Park. When the journalist reports this incident to local police, he is told that law enforcement is powerless to stop illegal logging in the forest. “Basically the whole community is united against us,” says the officer. “Foresters are like small local kings, people won’t turn them in or collaborate with us.”
Another scene depicts a truck driver, who reveals that while having been a driver to Schweighofer’s mills for over five years, roughly 80 percent of his deliveries were illegal. The film also exposes personal relationships between forestry officials and key Schweighofer employees by exploring photos and exchanges on social media. Further information on EIA’s work in Romania and on Schweighofer can be found here.