Austrian Company Exposed Offering Bonuses for Illegal Romanian Timber
BUCHAREST—The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an environmental organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and London, has released a new video exposing the leadership of the largest forest products company in Romania, the Austrian-based Holzindustrie Schweighofer, willingly and knowingly accepting illegally harvested timber and incentivizing additional cutting through a bonus system.
This evidence comes as Schweighofer has been identified in Romanian media as playing a central role in efforts to stop a new forest law from being approved by the Romanian Government. The forest law is currently under debate in the Romanian parliament.
In the video, undercover EIA investigators posed as foreign investors who had acquired the rights to cut a specified amount of timber on land owned by communities in Romania. Speaking to Romanian and Austrian Schweighofer officials, the investigators stated multiple times they intended to cut more than was permitted under contract and they needed assurances from Schweighofer that the company would accept the wood. On all occasions, Schweighofer officials confirmed they would buy the wood and further offered a bonus for any additional wood delivered.
On March 23, 2015, the President of Romania sent the proposed forest law back to the parliament for amendment and debate. Soon after, Romanian media released a leaked letter from the CEO of Schweighofer to the Romanian Prime Minister demanding the proposed law be amended, threatening consequences to trade relations between Austria and Romania if not.
Another leaked letter from the Austrian Embassy in Bucharest demanded the Romanian government meet with Schweighofer to reach an agreement on the proposed forest law. One provision of particular concern limits any one company from utilizing more than 30 percent of a given species of wood in Romania.
“Romania is in the middle of a critical effort to combat the illegal exploitation of its amazing, unique forests,” said Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of the EIA U.S. office. “This fight against illegal logging in Romania cannot be won if powerful companies like Schweighofer knowingly buy, and offer bonuses for, illegal wood.”
Holzindustrie Schweighofer is an Austrian-based wood products company, which processes the majority of Romania’s softwood timber into semi-finished wood products, primarily for export to the EU, Japan, and North America.
Illegal logging threatens Europe’s last remaining old growth forests, over 60 percent of which exist in Romania. These virgin forests are home to more large mammals, including brown bear, wolves, and lynx, than are found in all other European states combined, excluding Russia.
Maggie Dewane, Communications and Press Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 (202) 483-6621