Toxic Trade: Forest Crime in Gabon and the Republic of Congo and Contamination of the US Market
The Congo Basin, home to the second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon and equal in size to half of the continental United States, is of vital importance for thousands of species, including our own. For four years, EIA has investigated the logging sector in the Congo and Gabon, countries that together account for approximately 60 percent of the total area under forest management in the Congo Basin. EIA’s findings reveal that one the most influential groups of affliated timber companies in Africa, which for the purpose of this report will be referred to as “Dejia (deh-ja) Group,” has built its business model on bribery and other crimes.
According to evidence collected by EIA, the Group has continuously broken the most fundamental forest laws, has turned timber trade regulations upside-down, and has diverted millions in unpaid taxes from the governments of Gabon and the Republic of Congo. Dejia Group executives explained in detail to EIA investigators how the company routinely bribes ministers in both the Republic of Congo and Gabon to get access to timber concessions and avoid punishment for their crimes. EIA’s findings indicate that the Group’s modus operandi is by no means an exception — instead, the corruption and forest crimes perfected by Dejia also plague the majority of companies operating in the industrial logging sector in the Republic of Congo and Gabon. EIA found that illegally-sourced timber from Dejia is contaminating European and US markets, despite their laws prohibiting the import of illegal timber. In the US, the complicity of the main importer and the deliberate negligence of a prominent manufacturer, both of whom EIA investigators met undercover, are critical elements of the toxic supply chain. As a result, US consumers have unknowingly supported one of Africa’s most brazen criminal forest networks for over a decade.