American timber product importers are suing the US government in a bid to release 16 shipments of Brazilian bigleaf mahogany impounded earlier this year.

The shipments, valued at about US$2.75m, were impounded by the Fish and Wildlife Service, Customs Service and Department of Agriculture due to doubts about the accompanying export permits. The timber arrived in the US after Brazil had imposed a total ban on mahogany logging in December last year.

Ten other shipments have already been released over the past two months after the US government was assured by Brazilian environment agency IBAMA that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permits were valid.

The seven importers taking the legal action say they imported the timber in good faith and have all the necessary CITES documentation. The companies are Castlewood Products LLC, Interforst Corporation, M Bohlke Veneer Corp, Marwood Incorporated, United Veneer LLC, Veneer Technologies Inc and Aljoma Lumber Inc.