If you are looking for EIA UK, it's overhere.

Authorized Plunder

Massive Rosewood Sale Backed by Global Wildlife Convention Fuels Forest Crimes in Guinea-Bissau

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Authorized Plunder, documents how the sale of 180,000 rosewood logs in Guinea-Bissau, enabled by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is fueled by high-level corruption, encourages illegal logging, and threatens local communities. The chaotic sale appears to be pushed by influential Chinese traffickers – the same ones benefitting from the operation – and driven by the Guinean government’s need to reimburse a default loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Following an April 2012 coup, Guinea-Bissau descended into chaos, and illegal logging exploded. Illegal loggers and their backers in the military brutalized community leaders who stood up against the plunder of their forests. Timber exports from Guinea-Bissau to China, the world’s largest importer of illegal rosewood, surged from 61 tons in 2007 to 98,000 tons in 2014 – an equivalent of 255,000 trees exported in just one year.

Pursuant to heavy pressure from civil society, in April 2015 the new government issued a moratorium, which is still in place, on all timber felling and export for five years. The ban resulted in massive seizures of illegal logs. Guinea-Bissau, one of the smallest countries in Africa, has subsequently accumulated one of the largest timber stockpiles on the continent, estimated to be greater than 400,000 logs.

The CITES Secretariat endorsed the stockpile sale in January 2018, when a previous CITES trade suspension on Guinea-Bissau was lifted. The Guinean government – under pressure by the IMF to reimburse a default loan, and encouraged by the World Bank – had lobbied the Secretariat to greenlight the stockpile sale, despite the existing ban. In addition, the Chinese embassy and Chinese traders pushed the government to recommence the rosewood trade. Insiders reported to EIA undercover investigators that an influential Chinese trafficker even traveled to Geneva with the Guinean government delegation to lead the negotiations with the CITES Secretariat in order to free the illegal logs.

EIA found that large volumes of the timber authorized for sale are not controlled by the Guinean authorities, making it easy for traffickers to mix them with fresh illegally cut trees, which yield higher prices. The sale is carried out by the traffickers themselves, and is primarily controlled by high military officials. One trader explained to undercover investigators: “There are also sons of officials selling logs to us. No ordinary people will do this business. All of them are connected in some ways.” Another trader noted: “The key here is to bribe.”

The sales period was originally scheduled to end in April 2018, but has since been extended until the end of the year. Guinean officials overseeing the sale told EIA that the plan is to continue extending the deadline and thus enable the laundering to proceed for months in order to harvest and sell fresh timber and by-pass the moratorium, using CITES to give the guise of legitimacy to the process.

EIA’s Policy Manager Susanne Breitkopf stated: “This stockpile sale amounts to a massive laundering exercise, benefitting criminals and putting Guinea-Bissau’s forests and its people in grave danger. It also sets a worrying precedent for other countries facing challenges regarding the disposal of seized illegal timber. This corrupt operation makes a mockery of CITES’ global mission and must be stopped immediately.”

Guinean civil society has denounced the rosewood crisis ravaging the country for years, in particular through radio programs enabling otherwise voiceless rural communities to share their fears and frustration. On December 15, local civil society is organizing a full day of talks on the issue in the capital Bissau, expecting participation of community leaders and local officials who have witnessed the harmful impact of the rosewood sale. Roundtable discussions will be followed by a public concert with the participation of national artists; more than 2,000 people are expected for the mobilization.

Read the Report

Contact:
Susanne Breitkopf, EIA, (202) 390-5586, sbreitkopf@eia-global.org
Lindsay Moran, EIA, (202) 253-0006, lmoran@eia-global.org

View all Press Releases

Recent Blog Posts

Respaldo de Sociedad Civil a Defensora Ambiental en Perú
03/26/2021
60 instituciones y miembros de la sociedad civil y organizaciones indígenas en Perú emitieron hoy un comunicado respaldando a la Defensora Ambiental Lucila Pautrat ante los ataques que viene recibiendo de parte de una empresa investigada por la instalación no autorizada de monocultivos agroindustriales en Tamshiyacu, en la Amazonía peruana.
Escazu Agreement Offers Hope but is Only the Beginning
02/23/2021
2020 was a terrible year across the globe, but particularly for Latin America’s environmental defenders. After record numbers of murders in 2019, the perils for environmental and human rights defenders did not decline in 2020. In fact, these threats remained high and even increased during the pandemic, as illegal loggers, miners, and other land grabbers had free reign to encroach upon remote communities. And this time, the intruders brought with them the deadly coronavirus.

Recent Reports

Cashing-In On Chaos
06/03/2020
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)’s three-year investigation into the Senegal-Gambia-China rosewood traffic uncovered unprecedented evidence on a series of major forest crimes.
Mukula Cartel
12/05/2019
In Zambia the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that a handful of very high profile figures have apparently orchestrated and facilitated massive trafficking operations for years that are driving mukula rosewood trees to the edge of commercial extinction, devastating vulnerable forests and threatening communities’ livelihoods.

Recent Press Releases

EIA Applauds Newly Announced U.S. Bill to Tackle Global Deforestation; Urges Biden-Harris Administration to Support
03/03/2021
Senator Brian Schatz revealed plans today to introduce legislation that would put in place import requirements for agricultural commodities associated with illegal deforestation. The bill would oblige companies bringing commodities such as beef, leather, palm oil, soy, and cocoa into the U.S. to know where these goods originated and to ensure they were produced in compliance with laws of the country where they were grown or raised.
ORAU Statement on the murders of two indigenous Cacataibo leaders in Peru
03/03/2021
EIA joins ORAU in expressing outrage at the murders of human rights defenders who are protecting the Amazon region and their communities, and echoes ORAU’s calls for urgent and immediate actions. Here is an EIA-translated version in English of ORAU’s original letter in Spanish.

Recent Videos

Mukula Cartel
12/05/2019
In Zambia the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that a handful of very high profile figures have apparently orchestrated and facilitated massive trafficking operations for years that are driving mukula rosewood trees to the edge of commercial extinction, devastating vulnerable forests and threatening communities’ livelihoods
Japan’s Ivory Trade Faces Intensifying Opposition at Home and Abroad (Japanese Subtitles)
10/29/2019
Japan’s Ivory Trade Faces Intensifying Opposition at Home and Abroad
Follow us @eiaenvironment on twitter for the latest updates!