A search warrant was executed at the premises of Global Plywood and Lumber. The company was found to be importing significant quantities of Amazonian timber into the U.S. which was declared illegal by the Peruvian government. The warrant was issued on the basis of probable cause that Global Plywood and Lumber smuggled illegal timber and violated the U.S. Lacey Act, a law prohibiting the import of and trade in illegally harvested wood.
The warrant that authorized the search describes proactive collaboration between enforcement authorities in the U.S. and Peru to crack down on the illegal timber trade. This cooperation model holds great promise for further enforcement against the devastating international trade in black market wood products, which is responsible for environmental degradation, human rights violations, and significant economic loss.
“We have documented the devastating environmental, economic, and human impacts of illegal logging in Peru for years, which included the assassination of Peru’s leading environmental defender Edwin Chota in 2014,” said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). “The traders profiting from this stolen wood have long remained untouched. If this signals the beginning of real consequences for this massive international environmental crime, it will mark the beginning of hope for the future of the Amazon forest.”
In January, the head of Peru’s independent forest oversight agency, OSINFOR, was abruptly terminated from his position in an apparent effort to undermine enforcement efforts seeking to prevent illegal wood from entering the United States. He was subsequently forced to leave the country due to violent threats against him and the agency, including fire-bombing at OSINFOR’s regional offices in Pucallpa, Peru.
“These actions from the importing country authorities are key and indispensable to support all the efforts being put in place by the Peruvian authorities to stop illegal logging and its illicit international trade,” said Julia Urrunaga, EIA’s Peru program director. “Illegal logging mafias are fueled by the international demand and pose a threat for the forests and for all the public and private actors who fight to stop it. Demand for illegal timber must be stopped.”
Global Plywood was previously implicated in importing illegal Peruvian timber in an Al Jazeera documentary in 2015, but has continued to import wood from Peruvian company Inversiones La Oroza, despite that this supplier has been found to be laundering illegal timber with fake paperwork on multiple occasions in Peru.
The World Bank estimates that 80% of Peru’s timber exports have been illegally logged.
Media reports in the United States and Peru have previously highlighted the September 2015 massive shipment of Peruvian timber to the U.S., representing approximately three football fields of timber from the Amazon rainforest.