A new documentary video released yesterday by investigative journalist groups RISE and OCCRP once again names Austrian timber giant Holzindustrie Schweighofer as one of the largest buyers of illegal timber in Romania.
The 42-minute documentary details the illicit financial flows supporting criminal groups illegally logging throughout Romania’s forests, from the white collar, politically connected businessmen to the violent criminal gangs who terrorize local police and forest officials. All of these groups thrive off of illegal logging in some of Europe’s last remaining old growth forests, and as the reporters document through undercover investigations and official paperwork, many are long-time suppliers to Schweighofer’s sawmills.
Schweighofer’s networks extend across the border into Ukraine, which in 2015 supplied over a million cubic meters of pine and spruce logs to Schweighofer’s Romanian factories – over 80 percent of all the Ukrainian timber exported to Romania that year. In Ukraine’s chaotic western Carpathian Mountains, armed fighters fresh from the war in eastern Ukraine stop transports of illegal timber by force.
EIA reports in 2015 and 2016 documented how Schweighofer has grown to become the largest driver of illegal logging in Romania through its sourcing from over 1,000 separate companies across the country. The vast majority of Schweighofer’s Romanian production is exported, with Japan’s largest trading companies buying nearly 50 percent going to Japan.
As documented in this and previous reports from RISE and other local and international journalists and NGOs, these suppliers regularly violate forest laws in a country where an estimated 50 percent of logging is illegal.