German competent authority probes suspected EUTR breach

19 August 2013

A shipment of wenge has been inspected by the German authorities in an investigation of suspected breaches of the EU Timber Regulation.

According to Euwid, the German timber industry news magazine, 41 of the 57 suspect logs were confiscated by the country’s EUTR competent authority, the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE).

They were seized from a contract sawmill in Westphalia, where they were being processed for veneer production. The other 16 logs at an importer were awaiting inspection. The timber originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It was supplied by Lebanese-based Bakri Bois Corporation (BBC) and shipped by Swiss Supplier Bois d’Afrique Mondial (BAM) into Antwerp. The total cargo was 89 logs (196m3), with the rest going to Italian and Czech buyers.

The Germany-bound timber was bought by three importers, two of whom sent their material to the sawmill. The wenge had been tracked from DRC by Greenpeace, which cites a 2013 report by fellow NGO Resource Extraction Monitoring as evidence it was harvested illegally.

Greenpeace alerted the Belgian EUTR competent authority, which in turn tipped off the BLE to the arrival of the timber.

According to Euwid, the German importers presented certificates of the timber’s origin, including from BAM, plus phytosanitary documents as evidence that had fulfilled their EUTR due diligence risk assessment obligations.

Subsequently, one of the companies, Holz Schnetter Soest (HSS) and BAM provided additional documentation. HSS also said that the Swiss company had inspected shipments on the ground in the DRC.

The concession owner, BBC, also claimed it had only harvested 1,000m3 of its annual official harvest allowance of 10,000m3.

The DRC is ranked by BLE as category 1 in terms of illegality risk. It has now sent the timber’s import documentation for checking by the Congolese authorities.

The competent authority said that the maximum fine for an EUTR breach was €50,000, but the penalty would be less if the importers were found just to have been negligent.

The case has been reported by Germany’s leading news magazine Spiegel which concluded EUTR fines were too low.