Timber trader Gus Kouwenhoven has been found guilty of arms smuggling in war-torn Liberia.
Dutchman Gus Kouwenhoven was at the centre of the
timber-for-arms trade in Liberia between 2000 and 2003. This
'blood-timber' funded the purchase of weapons for former Liberian
President and warlord Charles Taylor and used in a war that claimed
the lives of more than 250,000 people.
The West African country of Liberia had been embroiled in a
civil war for much of the past 15 years and during the period of
2000-2003, Kouwenhoven's two logging companies sold large amounts
of Liberia's forests to Europe and China.
The money from the trade in Liberian timber funded the purchase
and smuggling of arms that helped prop-up Taylor's regime and
prolong the civil war. In court Kouwenhoven was described by
prosecutors as one of the 'inner circle' of former president
Taylor, himself now facing charges of war crimes.
The Liberian 'blood-timber' was bought by some of Europe's
biggest timber traders who refused to stop buying timber from
Kouwenhoven despite increasing evidence of the link between the
timber and the smuggling of weapons in violation of an
international arms embargo.
Between 2000 and 2003, we uncovered that European timber traders
including Swiss-German Danzer, Danish DLH Nordisk, Dutch Wijma,
Greece-based Shelman, German Feldmeyer-Group and the Italian
Tecnoalp were all involved in buying timber from Kouwenhoven's two
companies in Liberia.
Only after 7 July 2003, when the UN Security Council imposed
sanctions on Liberian timber exports, were the ties between
Kouwenhoven and the European timber trade finally terminated.
France and China had previously blocked the sanctions for three
years. A month after the ban in timber exports came into effect,
the civil war ended and Charles Taylor fled to Nigeria.
"This case illustrates that the international timber trade is
still unable to regulate itself. The lack of legislation at
international level on imports of illegal or conflict timber
contributed to this horrible example of destructive exploitation of
a natural resource, fuelling civil war and related crimes against
humanity. Governments must take up their responsibility to stop
illegal and blood-timber trade right now", said Greenpeace
International Africa forest campaigner Stephan van Praet.
We are calling on governments and timber traders to ban the
importing of timber from illegal and destructive logging. Timber
from conflict-prone countries like Burma, Ivory Coast and the
Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be freely traded on the
A ban on the importation of illegal and destructive timber would
ensure that companies and consumers do not fuel crimes against
humanity and the environment.
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