Hardwood flooring linked to illegal timber smuggling ring, says group
Investigators Expose U.S. Link to Billion Dollar Wood Smuggling Ring
The Environmental Investigation Agency
WASHINGTON, D.C; Environmentalists today revealed how hardwood flooring sold across the U.S. is linked to the world’s largest illegal timber smuggling operation. Following two years of undercover investigations, The Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-profit group, has exposed how a leading distributor of hardwood flooring, Goodfellow Inc., is selling flooring made from logs illegally felled in Papua province of Indonesia.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an international campaigning organisation committed to investigating and exposing environmental crime.
18 April 2005: EIA has documented how 300,000 cubic meters of stolen merbau logs are exported from Papua each month. Most of these logs are going to feed China’s massive timber processing industry. Chinese factories export merbau flooring to North American distributors including Goodfellow, a leading timber importer and hardwood floor sales company with offices in New York, New Hampshire and Washington state and over 7,000 U.S. and Canadian customers. Goodfellow was previously implicated in purchases of conflict timber from Liberia, a trade which fueled that country’s civil war and the slaughter of thousands of civilians. Although EIA does not allege that Goodfellow broke any laws, Goodfellow’s CEO pledged last Friday to cooperate with any government investigation.
EIA investigators posing as traders met with Sihe Wood, Goodfellow’s Chinese merbau flooring suppliers. A Sihe executive confirmed in taped interviews that it buys merbau logs imported from Indonesia. The Chinese company is a member of the U.S. National Wood Flooring Association headquartered in Chesterfield, Missouri.
The exposé by EIA and Telapak, a leading Indonesian environmental group, triggered an order last month by Indonesia’s President for a massive crackdown in Papua against top Papua forestry officials, Army personnel, military police, and Malaysian financiers and timber company executives. Indonesian officials have reportedly seized almost 65,000 logs, 20,000 cubic meters of cut timber, 788 pieces of heavy equipment, 34 trucks/vehicles, 4 ships, 13 barges and 49 chain saws from 49 locations in Papua province. The president of a Malaysian company with concessions on 800,000 hectares of Papua forest has been arrested. A senior official of China’s State Forestry Administration also vowed last month to take action against importers and manufacturers receiving the smuggled logs.
“The U.S. and Canadian timber industry need to stop turning a blind eye to the massive illegal timber and wood imports flooding into North American markets,” said Allan Thornton, EIA President. “We need to fast track commitments made by the U.S. and Canada at last month’s G8 meeting to stop imports of illegal timber and to do that we need the timber industry to stop selling timber and wood products stolen from Asian rainforests,” he added.
Last month, the U.S., Canada and other G8 nations agreed to new measures to halt imports of illegally cut timber. EIA is calling for the U.S. and Canada to enact new laws to ban the import and sale of stolen wood. “It is time for the U.S. and Canada to act in support of the people of Indonesia and other countries who are fighting powerful organized crime syndicates and corrupt high level officials to stop the plundering of their forests,” said Thornton.
For further information, contact:
Allan Thornton, EIA President: 202 483 6621
Juge Gregg, Senior Campaigner: 202 483 6621
Sam Lawson: Asia Forest Investigator: Cell 011 44 7789 776135
Broadcast quality video footage and still photos available.
The report The Last Frontier available in hard copy or online (www.eia-international.org/cgi/reports/report-files/media93-1.pdf)
1. EIA is an independent environmental non-profit group based in Washington DC and London UK, dedicated to fighting environmental crime. More information at www.eia-international.org.
2. On March 18th, the U.S. and Canadian governments participated in the G8 Environment and Development Ministers meeting in the UK, which pledged far reaching actions against illegal timber trade including stopping imports of such products.
3. In October 2004 Richard Goodfellow, the CEO and President of Goodfellow, Inc., told his shareholders that “the Asian factor was an important one in achieving [a larger net profit] because we both imported hardwood flooring and exported rough hardwood to many clients at favorable margins.”
4. Goodfellow is a Quebec-based company that deals with the re-manufacturing, distribution and brokerage of lumber and wood products at the wholesale level. It operates regional distribution centers in Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg Campbellville, Dartmouth, Moncton, Quebec City; and Winnipeg. In the US, it has offices in Manchester, NH, Watertown, NY, and Seattle, WA. www.goodfellowinc.com
5. Indonesian merbau flooring is on sale in a number of major outlets across the U.S., including branches of Lowe’s and Home Depot.
6. The majority of merbau logs stolen from Papua are destined for the Chinese port of Zhangjiagang, near Shanghai. The logs are then transported to the nearby town of Nanxun, China’s main center for the manufacture of wooden flooring, which have expanded from a handful of flooring factories five years ago, to more than 500 today – supplied by over 200 sawmills cutting only merbau logs.
7. Over 70 percent of Indonesia’s original frontier forests have been lost with forests equivalent to an area the size of Switzerland being lost every year.
8. Indonesia’s Papua province contains the last substantial tracts of undisturbed forest in the Asia-Pacific region.
9. The government of Indonesia banned the export of all logs in October 2001.
10. China’s log imports rose from 1 million cubic meters in 1997 to 16 million cubic meters in 2002.
11. In December 2002, the governments of Indonesia and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding to combat illegal trade in forest products. China has failed to respond to the Government of Indonesia’s requests to implement the agreement.
12. Telapak is an independent environmental non-profit group based in Bogor, Indonesia. More information at www.telapak.org.
by Allan Thornton