On November 24th, according to a report in the Peruvian newspaper La Republica, police raided the docks in the Amazon port of Iquitos, confiscating the equivalent of 60 heavy truck-loads of timber. The wood, worth around $0.5m, was bound for Mexico and the US – and reportedly 80% of it was owned by the FSC certified company, Inversiones La Oroza SRL. (Posting amended 10/12/15)
Peru’s forestry enforcement agency, OSINFOR has had a stronger mandate to act on illegalities since the passing new legislation earlier this year. The raid is believed to be the largest ever conducted in the Peruvian Amazon, but it has provoked an angry response. One of OSINFOR’s offices has reportedly been fire-bombed. Local logging workers declared a two-day strike, blockaded main roads into Iquitos, and set tires alight in the streets. Lawyers for La Oroza deny any wrong-doing.
But the company has ‘form’ in terms of non-compliances. In 2010 it was sanctioned for mis-declaring production information from a forestry concession. In 2012, the company ‘Oroza Wood SAC’ had a concession cancelled after it was named in a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency implicating it in illegal exports of wood controlled under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species. Since September 2015, timber from the company has been impounded in Houston docks by US authorities who are investigating the suspicious origins of some of the consignment. It is suspected that much wood leaving Peru’s Amazon region is illegally cut in protected areas and indigenous lands.
Embarrassingly for the FSC, despite the reasons for doubt, La Oroza was issued with FSC ‘controlled wood’ certification by Rainforest Alliance Smartwood only in February of this year, followed by a Chain of Custody certificate in May. According to the FSC Public Summary certification report (pdf. 116kb), the company was ‘compliant’ in terms of legality.
Smartwood ticks the boxes and pockets the certification fees. A few months later, La Oroza is busted
The Rainforest Alliance certifiers did not even raise any Corrective Action Requests
Not for the first time, Smartwood’s certifiers have been called into question for apparently failing to recognise problems with illegality. For the second time in as many months, FSC certified companies have been implicated in serious illegal logging allegations, following revelations about illicit trade in wood from Romania.
Perhaps it is even time for the US authorities responsible for enforcing the Lacey Act to consider whether the FSC, particularly certifiers responsible for issuing Controlled Wood certificates, are negligent to the point of being complicit in the concealment of illegal wood imports.