Greenpeace exposes Danzer Group's involvement in bribery and illegal logging

Investigation reveals more evidence of forest crime in Africa

Press release - 29 June, 2004
An investigation published by Greenpeace International today reveals new evidence of ongoing forest crimes in Africa by a Swiss/German company 'The Danzer Group'. Documents obtained by Greenpeace expose the company's practice of bribing public officials in Africa.

The documents obtained include a memo written by one of the executive directors of The Danzer Group who states that "If there is any threat of a fine, so called conditioned cases, he is, however prepared to take care of this by giving a gift" (1). The Danzer Group also has a financial partnership with the Cameroonian company Mba Mba Georges (MMG), which has been logging illegally in an area of forest that was proposed as a community forest. Moreover, Danzer indicates in internal documents that MMG is now logging illegally inside its own concession.

"This is further evidence that the global logging industry is out of control and destroying the world's ancient forests," said Gavin Edwards of Greenpeace International. "Illegal logging is not only destroying Africa's rainforest and wiping out precious wildlife habitat, but companies involved in this activity also appear to be defrauding developing nations and local communities out of millions of dollars through the systematic bribery of public officials."

The Danzer group sells African rainforest timber throughout Europe, with some suspected illegal wood being found in bridge construction projects by local governments across Europe, including France and the Netherlands (2).

Customs officers are unable to act to stop the import of illegal forest products into Europe, because there is no EU legislation in place to stop this illicit trade. Yet the European Commission is currently limiting its plans to develop a legislative framework for voluntary measures, instead of a law that would prohibit all illegal wood imports. The issue was put on the agenda of the Environment Council yesterday in Luxembourg, where EU Environment Ministers emphasised the need for urgent action to eliminate imports of illegal timber. They requested that the Commission act "without delay", and present its proposals including options for legislation (3).

"The precious rainforests of Africa's Congo basin are being logged at an alarming rate, due to an army of unscrupulous multinational loggers and timber traders who have little regard for the environment or the law." said Sebastien Risso, Greenpeace EU Unit. "This problem needs more than discussion and study, it needs swift action. This means stronger monitoring and law enforcement in African countries, EU legislation to prevent illegal wood imports, and the prosecution of these crooks under existing bribery laws."

Eighty percent of the world's ancient forests have already been degraded or destroyed, and only 20% remain intact. The rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Gabon are quickly being logged and turned into forest products for the European market. Governments worldwide are failing to protect ancient forests from illegal and destructive logging.

VVPR info: A copy of the Greenpeace Briefing 'Danzer Group Involved in Bribery & Illegal Logging' can be downloaded from www.greenpeace.org/illegal-logging

Notes: 1. Both Switzerland and Germany are signatories of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. The Convention makes it an offence "to offer, promise or give a bribe to a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain international business deals". The report will be circulated to a number of key customers of The Danzer Group and it's subsidiaries, and a wide range of governmental and non-governmental organisation: These include OECD Working Group on Bribery, The World Bank, the UN Security Council Expert Panel on Liberia, the anti-bribery commissions and the Ministries of Justice of the affected countries (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo), Transparency International, Global Witness and WWF. 2. Timber species include Ekki (Azobé), and importing countries include Italy, Belgium, Germany, France, Turkey, Portugal, Spain, Netherlands and Switzerland. The Danzer Group has a financial partnership with Cameroonian logger MMG and distributes their wood throughout Europe. Customers who buy MMG wood include Netherlands bridge fabricator and timber trader Groot Lemmer, whose bridges have recently been purchased by local governments in Netherlands and France.3. For more information on the outcome of the EU Environment Council meeting in Luxembourg, see Greenpeace Press Briefing and Press Release at : http://eu.greenpeace.org/issues/forests.html