Corporations destroying Congolese forests


This video is called Greenpeace investigation trip to Congo.

From Greenpeace:

Conning the Congo

30 July 2008

Africa — Just as the need to save the world’s forests for climate protection is becoming widely recognised, we have discovered that major logging companies – operating in the Congo basin – are increasingly destroying one of the most ecologically important forest areas on the planet while dodging taxes and robbing impoverished Congolese people of revenue.

The Congo basin contains the world’s second largest tropical forest and is of incalculable importance not only in terms of biodiversity and resources for local people but also as a giant carbon store that is essential for climate protection. Yet over 25 percent of this precious ecosystem is controlled by the logging industry with the majority in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo – two countries suffering from endemic corruption.

In a new report “Conning the Congo”, published today, we expose how companies like the German-Swiss Danzer group are cheating the people in this region out of vast amounts in tax revenue every year.

How are they getting away with it?

Danzer have set up an elaborate profit laundering system whereby their Swiss subsidiary company (Interholco AG) buys timber from its African sister companies (Siforco and IFO) at way below the market price and then makes up the shortfall by depositing money in offshore bank accounts. In doing so the Danzer Group evades paying a wad of corporate tax and export duties.

This unscrupulous behaviour appears to be indicative of the entire logging industry operating in the area – exacerbating the problem of illegal logging and cheating one of the poorest regions of the world out of millions of euros each year. We have calculated that the loss to these governments from the Danzer Group alone could be nearly eight million Euros. This is equivalent to the cost of vaccinating over 700,000 Congolese children under the age of five or 50 times the DRC Ministry of Environment’s annual operating budget.

Update October 2008: here.

Deforestation has fallen in Congo Basin countries over the past decade despite a sharp increase in the rate of forest clearing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a new study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B as part of a set of 18 papers on the region’s tropical forests: here.

Dead wood vital for UK wildlife: here.

7 thoughts on “Corporations destroying Congolese forests

  1. Congo launches review of logging contracts
    Wed Jul 30, 2008 12:32pm EDT

    By Joe Bavier

    KINSHASA (Reuters) – Congo, home to the world’s second largest tropical forest, launched a review of all timber contracts on Wednesday in an effort to clean up a business rife with corruption and to recoup millions of dollars in lost taxes.

    The World Bank-sponsored initiative will look at 156 deals. Most were signed during a 1998-2003 war and subsequent interim government accused of awarding numerous dubious logging and mining contracts.

    In 2002, with the country partially under the control of rebels, the Democratic Republic of Congo issued a five-year moratorium on new logging contracts as part of efforts to stem rampant deforestation aggravated by the conflict.

    The measure went largely unheeded and companies continued to sign new deals.

    Logging and land clearance for farming are eating away the Congo Basin, home to more than a quarter of the world’s tropical forest, at the rate of more than 800,000 hectares a year.

    Many contracts are expected to be cancelled outright by a review panel made up of government officials and independent experts.

    “What I’m hoping for is fewer concessions. What I’m hoping for is more revenues for the state. What I’m hoping for is better management of the forestry sector,” Environment Minister Jose Endundu told reporters on Wednesday.

    Endundu said last month he wanted to reduce land attributed to logging companies to 15 million hectares from 20 million.

    Amongst the biggest timber firms operating in Congo are Siforco, which is a subsidiary of Germany’s Danzer Group, and Portuguese-owned Sodefor, a unit of holding company NST.

    Together with a third company, Safbois, they account for more than 66 percent of the timber exported from Congo, researchers say.

    PROFIT LAUNDERING

    Conservation campaigner Greenpeace accused the Danzer Group on Wednesday of employing a system of price fixing and off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes on timber harvested from Congo and neighboring Republic of Congo.

    Greenpeace said the losses to both countries in tax revenues between 2000 and 2006 could top $12 million — or around 50 times the annual operating budget of Democratic Republic of Congo’s Environment Ministry.

    “(Congo) is one of the poorest places on the planet and that companies like Danzer Group are looking for ways to avoid paying taxes is simply outrageous,” Michelle Medeiros, Greenpeace International Africa Forest Coordinator, said in Zurich.

    Responding to the charges, Danzer said the Greenpeace allegations were “totally without foundation”.

    “They are an absurd, populist gimmick designed to cloud the current public discussion surrounding tax evasion in a misleading Greenpeace report,” it said in a statement.

    (Editing by David Lewis and Angus MacSwan)

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  2. Photo reveals rare okapi survived poaching onslaught

    NEW YORK (September 10, 2008)—A set of stripy legs in a camera trap photo snapped in an African forest indicates something to cheer about, say researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society. The legs belong to an okapi—a rare forest giraffe—which apparently has survived in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, despite over a decade of civil war and increased poaching.

    “This is the first time this species has been captured on film in this park. Known to occur in the park from the early 1900s it had not been seen here for over 50 years. Two years ago sightings of dung and other tracks were made in the park by a team of pygmy trackers who knew Okapi sign. It is very encouraging to see that this animal has survived,” said WCS researcher, Deo Kujirakwinja, who organized the recent camera trap survey. “Many animals have suffered in this park as a result of the ten years of insecurity in the region, so it’s encouraging to see that the okapi has survived.”

    Measuring up to 8 feet in length and standing up to 6 feet at the shoulder, the okapi has striped legs that give the animal a superficial resemblance to a zebra. It is, in fact, a close relative of the much larger giraffe. The animal’s current range occurs in the Ituri Forest in northern DR Congo. They are classified as Near Threatened by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and are at risk primarily from habitat destruction.

    The photograph was taken during some field surveys of the northern forests of the Virunga Park, an area that has been little visited historically because of the density of the forest and its remoteness. This region has also been the hideout of a rebel group (ADF – Allied Democratic Front) who have been battling the government of Uganda unsuccessfully for over 20 years. They have been hiding in Congo for many years now and it is only recently that it has become safe to enter this part of the park. Funded by the USFWS, these surveys aimed to assess the impact of the war on the fauna and flora of this region. Preliminary results indicate that many antelope species are at low density but that some species such as chimpanzees have survived fairly well.

    “The recent evidence that okapis still exist in the Virunga National Park is a good indication that large wildlife can rebound in areas impacted by unrest and poaching,” said Dr. Andrew Plumptre, director of WCS’s Albertine Rift Program.

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-09/wcs-prr091008.php

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  3. ALERT VICTORY
    ***********************************************
    RAINFOREST PROTECTION NEWS TODAY
    Closer to Ending Congo’s Ancient Rainforest Logging
    ***********************************************
    Rainforest Portal a project of Ecological Internet, Inc.
    http://www.rainforestportal.org/ — Rainforest Portal

    January 19, 2009
    OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY by Dr. Glen Barry, Ecological Internet

    The Democratic Republic of Congo is closer to ending ancient
    rainforest logging, as some 60% of logging contracts on nearly
    13 million hectares of forest have been canceled. A long
    delayed review of 156 logging deals, aimed at stamping out
    corruption and enforcing minimum legal and environmental
    standards, found that only 65 were “viable”.

    On several occasions Ecological Internet’s Earth Action
    Network has hastened this process with timely protest alerts,
    exposing World Bank forest corruption and successfully
    demanding the review, and we share with many others in this
    victory. While it is heartening that the World Bank has
    facilitated this logging concession review, it is sad that
    they and so many others still cling to the myth that
    industrial logging of millions of year old primeval ecosystems
    can ever benefit the Earth’s climate and biodiversity, or
    local peoples.

    The industrial destruction of natural ecosystems must end for
    our shared survival. Please continue to participate in the
    Earth Action Network at
    http://www.ecoearth.info/shared/alerts/ and support ecological
    protest action that matters.
    g.b.

    To comment:
    http://www.rainforestportal.org/issues/2009/01/congo_closer_to_ending_ancient.asp

    *******************************
    RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:

    Title: Congo set to halt most logging
    Source: Copyright 2009, Reuters
    Date: January 19, 2009
    Byline: Joe Bavier

    Logging must stop on nearly 13 million hectares of forest in
    Democratic Republic of Congo after a government review
    canceled nearly 60 percent of the vast country’s timber
    contracts, the government said on Monday.

    Congo, home to the second largest tropical forest in the world
    after the Amazon, has completed a long-delayed review of 156
    logging deals aimed at stamping out corruption in the sector
    and enforcing minimum legal and environmental standards.

    Logging, mining, and land clearance for farming are eating
    away at the Congo Basin, which accounts for more than a
    quarter of the world’s tropical forest, at a rate of over
    800,000 hectares a year — an area roughly the size of
    Massachusetts.

    At the end of the six-month long World Bank-backed process, a
    panel of government ministers found that only 65 timber deals
    were viable. The rest will now be canceled, Environment
    Minister Jose Endundo told a news conference in Kinshasa.

    “I will proceed within the next 48 hours to notify those
    applicants having received an unfavorable recommendation from
    the interministerial commission through decrees cancelling
    their respective conventions,” he said.

    “Upon notification of the cancellation decision, the operator
    must immediately stop cutting timber.”

    Timber rights held by companies whose contracts were canceled
    by the commission make up 57 percent of over 22 million
    hectares currently allotted for logging.

    The remaining nearly 10 million hectares will carry on as
    exploitable concessions.

    RAMPANT CORRUPTION

    However, Endundo said the government planned to respect a
    moratorium, put in place during Congo’s 1998-2003 war but
    widely ignored, on granting new timber deals.

    Nineteen contracts initially destined to be scrapped were
    given the green light during an appeals process completed
    recently, but a final list of companies with concession now
    due to be canceled has not been released.

    In August, a group of experts evaluating the legal and
    technical aspects of the Congo timber deals recommended that
    contracts belonging to a subsidiary of Germany’s Danzer Group
    and to Portuguese-owned Sodefor should be revoked.

    A third company, Safbois, also saw its agreements slated for
    cancellation. Together the three firms account for more than
    66 percent of all timber exported from Congo, researchers say.

    Most of the country’s logging deals were agreed during the war
    or by a three-year corruption-plagued interim government which
    ruled after it, despite the official moratorium.

    In 1992, before the former Belgian colony descended into more
    than a decade of political turmoil and war, Congo exported
    around 500,000 cubic meters of timber a year.

    By 2002, as rampant corruption took hold and with much of the
    country under rebel control, less than 100,000 cubic meters
    were officially declared for export.

    Congo today exports around 200,000 cubic meters of timber
    annually, mostly to Europe, the Environment Ministry says.

    However, tax revenues from the sector are minimal.

    One of the review’s goals, ministry officials said, is to help
    the state recoup millions of dollars in lost taxes.

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