Latest facts on the Swiss timber giant Danzer Group

Feature story - 28 January, 2005
In June and November 2004, Greenpeace International released two reports on the activities of the timber company Danzer Group and its African subsidiary Interholco. These documents showed that the Liberian trading partners of the Danzer Group, with headquarters in Baar (Canton of Zug, Switzerland), were involved in highly questionable activities.

Hands off my forest!

As late as last year Interholco still traded with Gus Kouwenhoven, whois accused of playing a key role in arms trafficking in Liberia and hastherefore been banned from travelling by the UN Security Council. Inthe meantime, the Swiss Federal Council has imposed stricter measureswith regards to Liberia and imposed financial sanctions against GusKouwenhoven and other individuals.

On the basis of two complaints filed by Greenpeace Switzerlandagainst Danzer Group's subsidiary Interholco and other personsinvolved, the Swiss Attorney General began a formal investigation intocompanies of the Danzer Group, as well as individuals. The complaintsaccused Danzer Group of being involved in: 1) bribery of foreign publicofficials, and; 2) suspected forgery.

On 21 December 2004, the Office of the Attorney General ordered theclosure of the preliminary investigation into the alleged bribery offoreign public officials (1). All official documents, including theaforementioned decision, were handed over to the public prosecutor'soffice of the Canton (District) of Zug, Switzerland. The complaint ofsuspected forgery (2) still remains to be investigated by the competentauthorities of the Canton (District) of Zug. The documents submitted byGreenpeace to the Office of the Attorney General support the suspicionthat employees of a Danzer Group company in Switzerland were involvedin the forgery of official government certificates.

Greenpeace has not yet been given the grounds upon which theAttorney General closed the preliminary investigation into the allegedbribery of foreign public officials (1). Greenpeace only filed thecomplaint and therefore does not enjoy the rights of a party in thelegal proceedings. Danzer Group has so far refused to provideGreenpeace with a copy of the Attorney General's decision. Furthermore,the Danzer Group has not given a satisfactory explanation of theevidence put forward by Greenpeace in its reports. The complaints tothe Attorney General by Greenpeace, in particular with regards to theactivities as described in the travel report written by one of thedirectors of the Danzer Group, remains unexplained.

Greenpeace has obtained further documents indicating that Interholco(a subsidiary of the Danzer Group) traded Liberian timber from theOriental Timber Company (OTC), although the Danzer Group, when askeddirectly, denied trading with companies involved in arms trafficking.Interholco also maintained close trading relationships with theCameroon company, MMG which has been documented of illegal loggingactivities.

Greenpeace will continue to closely scrutinise the activities of theDanzer Group. As a leading timber company Danzer Grup should only beinvolved in the supply of legal and sustainable timber, as it claims tobe in its reports.

Read the updated Danzer report from 2004