Ten European traders could be importing illegal Congo timber worth millions, breaking EU legislation and wreaking havoc on climate-critical rainforests.
Companies based in France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Poland have been importing timber from Industrie Forestière du Congo (IFCO) – a logging company which has flouted forest laws in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Together, the ten companies placed more than 1,400m3 of IFCO’s high-risk timber on the EU market, with a value of approximately €2 million, in the space of five months during 2018.
IFCO is a recently created entity which has inherited
logging operations previously belonging to Cotrefor,
a notorious company accused of a series of illegal activities. Cotrefor was the
subject of alleged links to the Tajideen family, members of which are sanctions-listed
by the US Treasury as financial supporters of Hezbollah. Cotrefor was the
subject of allegations that it was controlled by known Hezbollah financiers
named on a US Treasury sanctions list.
Key findings of our investigation
After looking into IFCO’s vast logging concession near Baulu in the province of Tshuapa, we uncovered serious concerns related to the legality of IFCO’s logging operations, including:
- logging outside boundaries, and
- logging while suspended for failing to pay
required taxes, respect social agreements with local communities and abide by
Under the European Timber regulations (EUTR), companies must be able to show they have taken clear steps to reduce the risk that timber imported to the EU has been illegally harvested. Failure to do so can result in high penalties.
“It has been over six years since the EU Timber Regulation came into force, and this is yet another case of illegal or high-risk timber coming into EU ports, seemingly unchecked. Illegal logging is a serious contributor to climate change, and weak enforcement risks undermining the EU’s efforts to combat it. - Colin Robertson, Campaigner, Global Witness
European traders importing timber from IFCO should exercise proper due diligence and investigate the specific illegalities raised in this report. If the risk of such illegality cannot be eliminated, these companies should cease buying timber from the IFCO.
Timber traders should also demand full disclosure of IFCO’s real owners, to mitigate the risk that the company has ongoing financial ties with the business empire of the Lebanese Tajideen family, members of which have been sanctions-listed by the US Treasury as Hezbollah financiers.
The DRC’s forestry authorities should investigate IFCO’s 2017 and 2018 operations, to establish the extent to which the company broke laws and flouted the directives of provincial authorities.
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