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|Defying Liberian President: Logging Company Flouts Timber Ban, Millions Exported||| Print ||
|Written by Global Witness|
|Friday, 21 December 2012 08:57|
The logging company Atlantic Resources has shipped millions of dollars worth of illegal timber from Liberia in breach of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s August order to halt timber exports, Global Witness revealed today.
These are the most significant illegal log exports since the timber-fuelled civil wars of the Charles Taylor era, and threaten to undermine the progress the President has made in bringing order to the forest sector. Two ships have recently left Liberia with cargoes that include logs cut under secretive contracts called Private Use Permits, the use of which has exploded in recent years to cover a quarter of the country’s total landmass.
Recent investigations by Global Witness, Save My Future Foundation and Sustainable Development Institute have shown that many Private Use Permits are illegal and at least some appear to be based on forged documents.
In August 2012 President Johnson Sirleaf ordered a halt to logging and exports under nearly all Private Use Permits pending an investigation. The Liberian Supreme Court initially stayed the President’s order until it could review a complaint filed by the logging industry, but in October 2012 the Court upheld the ban on logging and exports.
However, Global Witness has found that over the past seven weeks, timber has left Liberia in violation of this order. The timber was cut by Atlantic Resources, a company that is linked to notorious Malaysian logging giant Samling and owes the Liberian government millions in unpaid taxes.
“In a country where only a few years ago timber exports helped financed a brutal war, these shipments of illegal logs from Liberia represent a deeply troubling breakdown in the rule of law,” said Jonathan Gant of Global Witness. “Years of work by the Government and international donors to ensure the Liberian people get sustainable benefits from their forests is being undermined.”
The Liberian government is also effectively ignoring the President’s order. The Ministry of Justice has reportedly decided that companies can export Private Use Permits logs cut before the Supreme Court’s October decision, even though the President’s order bans these exports. The head of the government’s Forestry Development Authority told Global Witness that he cannot prevent exports as a result of the Ministry of Justice’s position.
Private Use Permits were designed to allow private landowners to cut trees on their property and do not contain the more stringent social and environmental protections required for certain other large logging permits in Liberia.
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“Atlantic Resources appears to be deliberately ignoring the President’s orders and exploiting weaknesses in the Liberian government,” said Gant.
“It stands to earn a fortune by selling Private Use Permit timber on the international market, but the Liberian people will see little benefit and the forests are likely to be wiped out. The President needs to reassert control immediately.” Atlantic Resources did not respond to Global Witness’ request for comment.
|Last Updated on Friday, 21 December 2012 18:37|