Swedish enforcement officials have successfully prosecuted a trader of Myanmar teak, Almtra Nordic, under the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) which bans placing illegal or high risk wood on the EU market.
The case sets a clear legal precedent just weeks after the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) formally reported nine teak traders for similar offences across five European countries. Two of these companies are exhibiting at the METSTRADE superyacht show in Amsterdam today, raising concerns that they intend to place more teak on the EU market.
A Swedish Forest Agency (Skogsstyrelsen) investigation found Almtra Nordic could not demonstrate who harvested timber or where it was cut prior to purchase from its supplier, the state-operated Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE).
The company has received an injunction preventing it from placing Burmese teak on the EU market unless it can identify and mitigate the high risks of illegality involved – in accordance with EUTR due diligence requirements.
“The Swedish courts have agreed that documentation currently provided by MTE does not satisfy the requirements of the EUTR, setting a precedent which all EU member states should follow,” said EIA Forest Campaigner Peter Cooper.
An October 2016 EIA briefing, Overdue Diligence, outlined how mitigating risk on Burmese teak is impossible because the MTE has to date been unable or unwilling to provide the information required by the EUTR.
Responding in the media to one EIA case, Germany’s EUTR agency stated MTE’s documents alone do not satisfy due diligence requirements due to high corruption levels in Myanmar.
“The ruling means no Burmese teak can be legally placed on the EU market until the Myanmar Timber Enterprise addresses illegality and transparency within the supply chain,” said Cooper.
“EIA now expects to see EUTR rulings equivalent to that imposed in Sweden in all nine cases we have submitted. This is a key test of Europe’s resolve to enforce a piece of environmental legislation central to EU forests and climate policy.”
The yachting industry – particularly the super yacht industry – is a mainstay of Burmese teak consumption in Europe, with many owners and industry operators regarding Burmese teak decking as an essential material and luxury status symbol.
It has emerged that two of the companies reported by EIA – Crown Teak and Royal Deck – are among a range of Myanmar teak suppliers and users exhibiting in the METSTRADE “Superyacht Pavilion” in Amsterdam, Holland, from November 15-17, 2016.
EIA believes it is possible that companies could actively sign contracts at the METSTRADE show involving Myanmar teak placed on the market in violation of EUTR Article VI on due diligence.
“The 2016 METSTRADE show is themed around sustainability, while deals involving illegitimate timber may be occurring inside the super yacht pavilion,” added Cooper. “The Swedish EUTR prosecution is an overdue wake-up call for the marine sector.”