Criminal trail of rainforest timber unveiled by Greenpeace investigation

Protestors use illegal rainforest timber to block entrance to UK Government's environment department

Press release - 19 October, 2005
A criminal trail of illegally logged timber from the world's last rainforests, which is 'laundered' in China before arriving in Europe, the USA and other consumer countries, has been uncovered by a major Greenpeace investigation. (1)

Greenpeace activists dump over a tonne of plywood in front of the entrance to DEFRA, the UK Government's department responsible for the environment. The action follows a major Greenpeace investigation which has uncovered a criminal trail of illegally logged timber from the world's remaining rainforestswhich is laundered through China before arriving on shop shelves in the UK.

Shortly after 7.30am this morning, Greenpeace activists blockaded government offices in London in protest. The activists dumped over a tonne of plywood secured with large chains over the entrance to DEFRA, the UK Government's department responsible for the environment. Two activists chained themselves to the plywood to prevent it being removed, and climbers scaled the outside of the building and secured a banner reading 'Ban Illegal Timber'.

"Governments around the world have known about this problem for years and they've done absolutely nothing about it. Illegally logged timber products from the world's last rainforests are sold openly around the world. This criminal trade must be prohibited immediately," said Phil Aikman, Greenpeace International forests campaigner.

Greenpeace has found that timber from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Gabon is routinely logged illegally, shipped to China and transformed into plywood before being exported around the world. Many of the companies that log the tropical timber are known to be involved in criminal activities. In Papua New Guinea, for example, the logging industry is dominated by Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau, a company that has been directly linked not only to environmental destruction, but also to human rights abuses including torture and rape. (2)

"China is by far the largest importer of rainforest destruction in the world," said Aikman. "For every ten tropical logs shipped from the world's threatened rainforests, five are destined for China."

A new report, Partners in Crime, published by Greenpeace UK, explains the 14,000 mile journey taken by illegally logged timber from Papua New Guinea, home to animals and plants found nowhere else on the planet. This timber was traced back to UK ports, building sites and builders' merchants via the processing mills of China, where it is transformed into plywood and then exported to markets around the world. US owned 'Wolseley', the world's largest heating and plumbing company, is one of those identified selling such products in the UK.

Illegally logged rainforest timber was found at Chinese plywood mills destined for several other European destinations. Rainforest timber from Gabon, home to some of Africa's last great apes, was found marked for export to the USA.

Greenpeace is calling on governments to introduce legislation to ban the import of illegal timber and to support sustainable forest management globally. (3)

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organization, which uses non-violent, creative communication tools to put the spotlight on global environmental problems, and to drive towards solutions essential for a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Phil Aikman, Greenpeace International forests campaigner on +44 7801212995

Notes: (1) To see the Greenpeace UK report, Partners in Crime: The UK timber trade, Chinese sweatshops and Malaysian robber barons in Papua New Guinea's rainforests go to http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/PNGForestCrimeFile. For further details linking trade in Chinese plywood to the USA and several other European contact Phil Aikman.(2) See: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/the-untouchables-rimbunan-hi(3) European Agriculture Ministers will meet in Luxembourg to discuss voluntary measures related to illegal logging on 24-25 October.

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