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News, 2/15/2013

Finland demands explanations regarding timber smuggling from Mozambique to China

Finland and other donors call on the Government of Mozambique to respond to the allegations of the illegal sale of timber presented in a recent report. The Environmental Investigation Agency, or EIA, a non-governmental organisation specialising in environmental affairs and based in London, has just published a report on the issue.

According to the report, Chinese merchants and high-level politicians and forest and customs authorities in Mozambique have for years been party to an extensive operation involving the illegal sale and smuggling of timber from Mozambique to China. Because of this, Mozambique loses tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues each year.

The case does not involve Finland’s development cooperation funds. It shows, however, that the decision to abolish the forestry programme taken by Finland at the end of last year was justified. Finland is closely following the investigation of the case, and will draw its own conclusions on future cooperation in the light of the findings.

In the investigation, Finland acts as the coordinator for the Nordic countries and the EU. The authorities of Mozambique have been sent an official request for clarification, and a meeting has been requested with the Minister of Agriculture.

According to the report, such a large-scale smuggling has been made possible by protection from high-level politicians. Of the cooperation partners, those mentioned by name include Mozambique’s current and previous Minister of Agriculture.

The matter was discovered by comparing customs statistics and through the EIA’s own undercover investigations where researchers posed as timber merchants and used a hidden camera to record the events. Studies indicate that about half of the timber sent to China went through the illegal trade in timber.

Because the amount of timber felled is greater than has been reported, the future of valuable native forests is seriously threatened. The central findings of the report have been widely publicised in the Mozambican press, but as yet there has been no official reaction to the issue.

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Updated 2/15/2013

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