Call for Danish and European regulators of the EU’s illegal timber ban to answer for potential failures to enforce rules against the Danish “conflict timber” trader
Danish timber giant Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman (DLH) has been expelled from the world’s leading timber certifier, the Forest Stewardship Council, following evidence presented by Global Witness that the company traded illegal timber linked to land grabbing in Liberia. FSC’s finding that DLH followed none of its own due diligence procedures casts serious doubt over law enforcement efforts by Danish authorities responsible for policing the import of illegal timber into Europe.
“Right now, consumers can’t be sure the wood they buy is legal and sustainable. FSC has done the right thing by expelling DLH, but it shows that you can’t even be sure that certified companies are trading legally”, said Patrick Alley, co-Director of Global Witness. “Danish authorities now need to explain why they found DLH legally compliant just months after Global Witness found illegal timber in front of its warehouse in France.”
FSC spent two months investigating Global Witness evidence that DLH purchased US$304,870 worth of timber from two Liberian companies in 2012, which was cut under illegal logging contracts called Private Use Permits (PUPs) and exported to Bangladesh, China and France. PUPs were ruled illegal by the Liberian government in December 2012, whose investigation into their use reported widespread fraud and corruption by logging companies and Liberian officials. Global Witness discovered these logs in front of DLH’s warehouse in France in February 2013, raising suspicions that DLH would illegally place the wood on the EU market after the entry into force of the EU’s Timber Regulation a month later. The Regulation requires companies to follow responsible sourcing standards, also known as due diligence, and not place illegal timber on the EU market. Enforcement authorities including the Danish Nature Agency are responsible for conducting checks on companies to ensure their compliance with the law.
“European countries like Denmark and France now have criminal sanctions to stop illegal timber traders, but authorities just aren’t coordinating properly to make sure multinational traders with subsidiaries in several countries are actually respecting the law. So far no-one has ever been prosecuted, despite billions of euros of illegal or risky timber sold in Europe every year. Authorities should now start publishing the checks they conduct on companies and coordinate properly so that consumer groups can be sure the law is being applied and all wood products in Europe are legal,” said Patrick Alley.
Global Witness submitted evidence concerning DLH, whose global headquarters is based in Denmark, to the Danish Nature Agency, the authority responsible for enforcing the EU’s Timber Regulation against the illegal timber trade. According to DLH, the Agency visited the company on 5 December 2013 and gave a “clean bill of health” to DLH’s global business two days later. The Agency informed Global Witness that it had found DLH’s due diligence procedure legally compliant, but did not coordinate with other authorities to check the application of these procedures by subsidiaries in other European Member States. DLH continues to claim it is compliant with the EU law.
To regain its certification FSC requires that DLH pays compensation to the rural communities affected by their recent illegal timber trading. This case follows a history of wrongdoing in Liberia, where DLH purchased timber from a company that helped finance (now convicted war criminal) Charles Taylor’s regime during the country’s brutal civil war. Its wartime trading is now the subject of a criminal complaint in France submitted by Global Witness, Liberian NGO Green Advocates, Sherpa, and Greenpeace France.
“DLH has a horrific record of financing conflict through its timber trading during Liberia’s bloody civil war. Now they’ve been caught buying timber from the biggest land grab in Liberian history. DLH has never been brought to justice or compensated communities for the untold damage it’s caused in one of the poorest countries on earth. We welcome FSC’s requirement that DLH compensate Liberian communities. All illegal timber traders should pay reparations to those who’ve suffered as a result, but thus far DLH has enjoyed complete impunity for its illegal trade with companies linked to Charles Taylor. The EU timber law is meant to protect people and forests. Danish and European authorities have to show they can hold companies like DLH to account.”
Global Witness is calling for:
- The Danish Nature Agency to review its decision to find DLH’s business legally compliant with the EU Timber Regulation and to coordinate with other European authorities to investigate DLH’s subsidiaries.
- European authorities to agree a new coordination mechanism to enforce the EU Timber Regulation against companies operating in numerous Member States.
- All European authorities to ensure company checks are published in the interests of transparency and accountability.
- The European Commission to issue new guidance to Member State authorities on consistent enforcement standards for the EU Timber Regulation and procedural standards for the processing of NGO complaints against companies, including transparency on company checks.
- FSC to establish and monitor the application of strong due diligence standards by all its members, including acting upon reports of NGOs and official bodies, to ensure none of its members trade in illegal timber or are at risk of doing so.
- DLH to pay Liberian rural communities affected by its illegal purchases the sum of US$304,870, equivalent to the value of the timber that was stolen from their forests.
Alexandra Pardal at +44 7720737954 or [email protected]
Notes to editors
- Global Witness revealed in October 2013 that Danish timber giant Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman (DLH) had purchased illegal timber worth $304,870 from Liberia in 2012, which it exported to Bangladesh, China and France. PUPs have been ruled illegal by the Liberian government, whose 2012 investigation into their use reported widespread fraud and corruption by companies and Liberian officials.
- Global Witness’ complaint to FSC about DLH, containing detailed evidence against the company, is available for download here.
- The FSC Complaints Panel found that:
- DLH was unable to provide the Panel with documented evidence that it had followed its due diligence procedure for any supplier in Liberia.
- DLH failed on several accounts: lack of clear adequate standards, lack of robust procedures, lack of on-the ground implementation of those procedures that were in place, and lack of oversight.
- There was sufficient publicly available evidence to warrant ceasing trade with Liberia in late April 2012.
- FSC’s decision to disassociate from DLH means the company and its subsidiaries will lose their membership of FSC and the chain of custody certificates they hold. FSC Chain of Custody certification allows companies to label their FSC products, which in turn enables consumers to identify and choose products that support responsible forest management.
- Global Witness’ brief on the EU Timber Regulation and the import of illegal Liberian timber can be downloaded here.
- Global Witness, Greenpeace France, Sherpa and Liberian NGO Green Advocates have filed a criminal complaint against DLH’s subsidiary in France relating to its trading of Liberian timber during the country’s civil war. From 2000-2003, DLH bought timber from Liberian companies that provided support to Charles Taylor's brutal regime. Evidence gathered by a group of NGOs including Global Witness, Greenpeace France and Amis de la Terre suggested that DLH knew where the timber was coming from, and who was benefiting from the sales, and yet it continued purchasing it. Although Taylor has now been convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague for war crimes, including the use of natural resources to fund conflict, DLH has never been prosecuted for its own role. For further information see Global Witness’ report Bankrolling Brutality: Why European timber company DLH should be held to account for profiting from Liberian conflict timber, 2010.
 “DLH successfully passes EUTR audit”, 6 December 2013: http://www.dlh.com/News/Environmental-news/2013/2013-12-06.aspx