Herakles Farms’ Illegal Timber: A Plot against Cameroon’s Forests and the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union

Press release - May 27, 2014
Yaoundé, May 27th, 2014 - In a report published today, Greenpeace Africa reveals how the American company Herakles Farms, using a front company, may have colluded with Cameroon’s Minister of Forests to illegally obtain a logging permit inside the land concession it was granted in 2013. Herakles Farms is now preparing to export illegal timber to China.

In January of this year, Minister Ngole Philip Ngwese granted a 2,500 ha logging permit (vente de coupe n° 11-02-10) to a little-known company called Uniprovince. The vente de coupe is inside of Herakles Farms’ land concession in the area where the company conducted illegal logging prior to receiving Presidential Decrees granting it a provisional land lease. This vente de coupe permit was granted in flagrant violation of Cameroon’s forestry legislation. The law provides that ventes de coupe permits be granted solely by public auction, which was not the case for Uniprovince.

Vente de coupe n° 11-02-10 is also very suspect as it does not figure in the most recent list of “valid” logging permits published by the Ministry of Forestry on March 10, 2014.  11-02-10 was granted on January 28, 2014 and the permit “certificate” was signed by the Minister of Forests on February 6—more than a month prior to the publication of the list of « valid » logging permits, yet it does not appear.

“This was a deliberate attempt to hide an illegal decision taken in favor of Herakles Farms” explained Irene Wabiwa, Head of Greenpeace Africa’s Forest Campaign.

In March 2013, SGSO Cameroon Holding Ltd. (Herakles Farm’s affiliate registered in the Cayman Islands) purchased Uniprovince with the intention of generating substantial revenue from illegal logging.

It appears the Cameroonian authorities and Herakles Farms are collaborating to make illegal logging happen at the expense of Cameroon’s treasury, the Nguti local council and local communities which are supposed to receive a forestry royalty. The illegal granting of Uniprovince’s logging permit without an auction will cost the government: Uniprovince will pay 17 times less tax than the average paid by logging companies with similar permits in 2014. Yet, Herakles farms will exploit greater volumes of timber than other companies since it will raze the forest to make way for its palm plantation.

According to Irene Wabiwa, “Contrary to the declarations made by Herakles Farms, the company has no intention to develop Cameroon. In reality, Cameroon is losing enormous revenue because of the illegalities and corruption surrounding the company’s activities.”

By signing the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union, Cameroon committed to fight illegal logging and illicit commerce of timber. Despite efforts made by the two parties to implement the VPA, the granting of Uniprovince’s illegal permit calls into question Cameroon’s will to respect the agreement and the credibility of the initiative as a whole.

Due to the numerous illegalities surrounding this project, Greenpeace demands that the entire stock of timber be seized immediately by the Cameroonian authorities and the illegal logging permit be immediately cancelled. An investigation should be opened into the illegalities and wrongdoers prosecuted. Due to the Minister of Forest’s inaction, Greenpeace has introduced a complaint to the competent state prosecutor and provided proof of all the resulting illegalities and financial losses to the State.

To read the report

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Contact:

Irene Wabiwa, Lead Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Africa, , +237 71 61 18 28

Najia Bounaim, Communications Coordinator, Greenpeace Africa, , +27 79 93 047 43