Barama, Guyana: WWF’s ‘suspended’ star performer in South America accused by President of giant timber scam

At the start of this year, FSC-Watch reported on the ‘suspension’ of the FSC certificate of Malaysian-owned Guyanese logging company, Barama. A statement issued today by the President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, who accuses Barama of “fraud”, will come as a further embarrassment to supporters of the certificate.

One of the issues which the ‘suspension’ of Barama’s certificate raised was the extent to which the FSC system is able or unable to detect high-level fraud and corruption associated with companies seeking certification. In the case of Barama, it was a widely known secret that something very suspicious was going on, because the company had not declared a profit (and therefore not paid the relevant taxes to the empoverished Guyanese state) for 15 years. Investigating this situation, the FSC noted that “The evaluation of the financial performance of forest enterprises is outside the scope of FSC certification and was not investigated during [our] surveillance audit [of Barama’s certifier SGS]”.

President Jagdeo has now confirmed what many people in Guyana have known all along – that Barama, other forest concession owners, and officials of the Guyana Forestry Commission, have been found culpable in a scam to “defraud the government of revenue”. The full report appeared today’s Guyana Chronicle

Clearly, there are some lessons here for FSC but, meanwhile, staunch supporters of the certificate, WWF, are still promoting the certification of Barama as a record-setting accomplishment for tropical forest conservation in South America.

FSC-Watch believes that both FSC and WWF should be talking to Guyanese civil society experts in order to learn from them how to detect such frauds in the future.

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