Swiss Attorney General investigates charges against timber giant Danzer Group

Press release - 24 November, 2004
Greenpeace today presented a second report on the Swiss-German Danzer Group exposing additional evidence of their unscrupulous business activities. The Group are suspected of forging official documents and carrying out business dealings with an arms trafficker, blacklisted by the UN Security Council (UNSC).

In June, Greenpeace published a first report describing the bribery schemes of the company's African business associates. Acting on a complaint filed by Greenpeace the Office of the Attorney General has started investigating the charges against Interholco, a subsidiary of Danzer Group.

Speaking at the press conference, Christoph Stückelberger of Transparency International was very clear in his condemnation of bribery: "Corruption is not only a problem of developing countries.

The problem has two faces. We urge Switzerland to be hard and fast in enforcing anti-corruption provisions, as agreed within the OECD."

The latest Crime File reveals that Interholco bought logs from the Liberian Oriental Timber Company (OTC), run by Dutchman Gus Kouwenhoven, despite assurances issued by the Group that it does not deal with companies involved in arms trafficking. The UN Security Council (UNSC) regards Kouwenhoven as a key figure in the logistics of illegal arms movements to Liberia during the reign of warlord Charles Taylor. The report also shows how Interholco has maintained trading ties with

Kouwenhoven, who has been operating another timber business out of Congo Brazzaville. Another Liberian partner of the Danzer Group, the Inland Logging Company, has recently been accused of tax fraud by the Liberian authorities.

The report also illustrates examples how Danzer Group employees appear to have forged copies of Phyto-sanitary Certificates for timber exports from a number of African countries, including Liberia, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. With the help of a pair of scissors, white tape and a colour photocopier, enabling official stamps and

signatures to be cut and pasted, certificates are hard to distinguish from the official ones, normally issued by the federal authorities or Chamber of Commerce of the respective export countries. Copies of the documents have been supplied to the Attorney General for further investigation.

"Almost without exception, European companies like the Danzer Group have knowingly chosen to continue laundering timber from illegal and destructive sources, often from countries governed by corrupt regimes where rogue logging companies operate unhindered," said Greenpeace Africa- specialist Illanga Itoua. "The European Union must urgently criminalise these activities under money laundering legislation. How much longer are we going to stand by as unscrupulous European businesses exploit the misery of the local population in Liberia and the Congo basin?"

Greenpeace campaigns both in consumer countries and at the frontiers of ancient forest destruction. We work with local forest communities to expose illegal logging of their traditional lands by international timber companies.