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Depot Deception: New EIA video documents systematic timber laundering by Schweighofer suppliers

WASHINGTON, DC – A new video released today from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) shows that Romanian suppliers to the Austrian timber giant Holzindustrie Schweighofer (Schweighofer) appear to be systematically laundering logs through real and fictitious log depots to obscure their forest origins. Given the high risk of illegal logging in Romania and the wealth of evidence that Schweighofer has previously sourced illegal timber, the company’s extensive sourcing from log depots presents a particular challenge to the company as it struggles to clean up its supply chain.

Romanian law requires that all log transports originating from a logging site contain an APV number (actul de punere în valoare), linking the logs to a specific forest harvesting permit. In contrast, subsequent transports of logs, including from log depots, do not contain this APV number.

In September 2016, EIA investigators witnessed a number of trucks entering Schweighofer’s sawmill in Sebeș, Romania. The officially listed origin for 80% of these trucks was in log depots – most of which were located within seven kilometers of the company’s sawmill.

In one instance, investigators observed a log truck entering the town of Sebeș, with an official transport document showing origin in the forest, with an APV number. Thirty minutes later, the same truck entered Schweighofer’s sawmill – now registered with a new transport document originating from a depot, but for the exact same quantity of wood. The GPS coordinates for this new document show that it was registered not in a depot, but in a random location on the freeway less than one kilometer from Schweighofer’s sawmill.

In December 2016, Romania’s Ministry of the Environment launched a new website called Forest Inspector, providing public access to detailed information about all timber transports in the country. Analysis of transports visible on this website shows that in the month of September alone, over 300 trucks in the Sebeș area used a similar mechanism – registering new “depot” transport documents for the exact same volume, on the exact same day, as an earlier “forest” document, demonstrating the widespread nature of this laundering scheme. Twelve percent of these came from within or just outside of natural parks.

“The lack of forest origin information in so many of Schweighofer’s log purchases makes it impossible for the company to ensure legal timber sourcing,” said David Gehl, Eurasia Programs Coordinator at EIA. “With the Forest Inspector website, Romanian citizens now have a unique way to help protect their forests by holding companies to account for buying legal wood.”

EIA’s new video comes after a surprise decision by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to ignore the recommendations of its panel report to disassociate itself from Schweighofer due to findings that the company had extensively sourced illegal logs and had an inadequate due diligence system for excluding illegal timber. The FSC panel further recommended that Schweighofer ensure that “all timber can be traced from the stand in the forest to mill gate including any timber that is purchased from third parties.”

“Schweighofer’s customers should demand that the company publicly release proof of the legal forest origin of every board it sells,” said Gehl. “Until Schweighofer does this, its customers should know that they could be buying illegal wood.”

Watch The 'S' Files Case #1: Ghost Trucks and Case #2: Un-Natural Parks here.

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Contact: Maggie Dewane, EIA Press Officer, mdewane@eia-global.org, +1(202)-483-6621

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