Activists Declare Corporate Crime Scene

New Evidence Reveals Dutch Timber Giant, Wijma Logging Illegally in Cameroon

Press release - 27 August, 2002

Rainforest logging in the Cameroon. 1999

Several Greenpeace activists met with the foreman of a Wijma factory in Germany this morning, holding a large banner, which read Wijma, Logging Illegally in Cameroon. The foreman promised to convey the activists' demands for Wijima to operate within the law, to the head office in the Netherlands. This morning's protest in Germany was carried out to expose damning new evidence on Dutch logging company Wijma, released today by UK-based Forests Monitor and Greenpeace. Germany is one of the top importers of Wijma timber.

The joint report, based on field investigations carried out in July 2002, reveals that the company has been cutting timber well outside of its legal permit area, and marking these logs with Wijma's legal logging title. The timber company's illegal logging activity has led to large-scale destruction of local farmers' food and cash crops which has provoked serious social conflict in the region.

"Wijma is using a legal licence to launder illegally felled timber into the marketplace," said Paula Vandergert, a director of Forests Monitor. "Until companies like Wijma start to work within the laws of the country where they are operating, governments such as Cameroon face an uphill battle to save their forests."

Wijma's illegal logging has not only damaged a significant area of rainforest, it has also robbed the West African nation of vital taxes, destroyed numerous villagers' subsistence and cash crops and undermined the value of one of its corporate competitors' forest lands. The report estimates that Wijma's illegal log laundering in this area could be worth more than US$2 million - and has deprived the Cameroon government of tens of thousands of US$ in taxes. (2) Despite growing evidence of Wijma's poor record in Cameroon, the company obtained two new logging concessions in early 2002, while the Dutch government - one of Wijma's biggest customers - continues to buy from the company.

"The Cameroon government has known for months about Wijma's illegal logging ring. The government's own independent forest observer, Global Witness has reported these activities to authorities," said Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Just van den Broek. "It is vital that this company pays for the damage it has caused and is prevented from committing further crimes in these forests. And it is up to the Dutch and Cameroon governments to ensure that this happens."

Forests Monitor and Greenpeace are calling on the Cameroon government to carry out an official assessment of the ecological, social and fiscal damages caused by Wijma as a matter of urgency and to impose financial penalties on the company. The groups also urge the government to prohibit Wijma from receiving any further logging permits until the company demonstrates that it is willing to operate within the law.

As the issue of corporate responsibility, accountability and liability is debated by world leaders at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, Greenpeace is calling on world governments to stop letting powerful transnationals get away with illegal and destructive behaviour by:

· Committing to develop a legally binding framework on corporate responsibility, liability and accountability by 2005

· Calling for transparency within industry and endorsing the need for independent on the ground verification (monitoring) and suspending immediately all contracts with known corporate criminals

· Reviewing and amending current timber purchasing policies, and committing to mov

VVPR info: A copy of the report will be available on the web site: Photographs, maps and video footage of Wijma's illegal logging operation are available on request. For photographs of the action call Greenpeace Germany +49 40 30618 376

Notes: Note to Editors:1. Houthandel Gebroeders Wijma and Zonen BV (GWZ). The company specialises in highly durable timbers for marine engineering projects. An important part of Wijma's trading activity is in Azobé (Lophira alata), which has been subject to large-scale overexploitation as a timbers species and which is classified as Vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).2. These figures are based on preliminary estimates only. A further, more detailed assessment by Cameroon Forestry officials will be necessary in order to estimate the real value of the stolen timber and the loss of tax revenues. The FOB (Free on Board) value of Iroko (145,500 CFA) is, for example, higher than that for azobé (80,000 CFA).3 The Johannesburg Earth Summit is the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) marking 10 years since the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil. 4. The FSC is the only independent international certification and labelling system which uses globally endorsed ecological performance standards, ensures a traceable chain-of-custody from production to final consumption, brings together a broad range of environmental, social and economic stakeholder interests and enjoys widespread and public company support in key market regions.