A gang that has been forging thousands of logging permits to transport millions of pounds worth of hardwood in the Amazon has been arrested.

Thirty-five people were taken into custody across four Amazon states in dawn raids by more than 400 federal police.

The operation was the fifth launched by police against illegal Amazon logging since president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva entered office in 2003 with strong backing from environmentalists.

The government estimates that around 60% of Amazon timber is now produced legally, compared with around 20% in 2000. And it anticipates confiscating four times more timber this year than was confiscated by the previous government in 2002.