Saturday, June 6th, 2020
European Companies Importing Illicit Wood for Superyachts
European companies have been exposed by an international environmental watchdog as having possibly imported illegal shipments of teak.
Following a recent probe, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has at named at least six companies registered in the EU who have been exploiting a loophole in timber regulations importing much sought after water resistant teak for use as decking during the building of luxury yachts.
The companies named in the report are ABC Net in Slovenia, Crown Holdings in Belgium, HF in Italy, Houthandel Boogaerdt in the Netherlands, Vandecasteele Houtimport in Belgium and WOB Timber in Germany.
The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR), introduced in 2013, lay down that the responsibility for ensuring that timber is of legitimate origin falls only to the company first placing the goods on the European market.
the EIA alleges that in order to avoid conducting due diligence checks themselves, these six companies simply sought out a partner willing to import teak shipments from Myanmar on their behalf and they did so through a country where regulatory enforcement is weak.
According to NEPCon, a forestry monitoring NGO, the UN Environment Program believes that illegal logging accounts for between 15% and 30% of the worldwide trade in timber, rising to between 50% and 90% for wood sourced from tropical countries.
Highly prized in the yacht-building industry for its water- and rot-resistant properties, the international trade for teak is one of the driving forces behind the destruction of Myanmar’s forests.
An area of teak forest in Myanmar greater than the size of Belgium has been lost over the last decade. That loss says the EIA is: “Having a devastating impact on people’s livelihoods, driving climate change through deforestation and destroying the country’s abundant biodiversity.”
Documents seen by the EIA, claim that Mr Igor Popovič, the sole director and shareholder of a Croatian company named as Viator Pula acted in such a role on their behalf.
Popovič suggested to EIA investigators that EUTR regulations, offer an advantage when importin Myanmar teak through Croatia.
Mr Popovič has been operating in Croatia for the last 12 years, said Alec Dawson, one of EIA’s forest campaigners. He added “He is making a business out of the perception that Croatian authorities would not properly enforce European regulations on timber imports.”
Reporting for the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) William Neal, quoted Alec Dawson as saying, “Basically there’s been inconsistent enforcement – there’s been the occasional confiscation with goods being sent back, but the penalties are simply not enough to disincentivise illegal sourcing. Part of the problem is that it took authorities in Europe a while to start taking it seriously, which means that many companies remain willing to push the law as far as it will go.”