A United States timber importer, Global Plywood and Lumber Trading LLC, has pleaded guilty to importing illegal timber from Peru in violation of the US Lacey Act, which prohibits trade of illegal timber products into the country. A six-year investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Justice, proved that at least 92% of the Global Plywood timber in this shipment had been illegally logged in the Amazon rainforest. According to a memorandum filed by the defendant with the Court of the District of Columbia, the wood had a declared import value of $613,182.03, and was destroyed at Global Plywood’s expense, leading to the company’s dissolution as no longer viable.
The timber in question arrived in Houston from the Amazon region of Loreto in Perú on the Yacu Kallpa vessel in September 2015, but was stopped by US authorities following an alert by the Peruvian Government that large parts of the shipment may be of illegal origin. A subsequent investigation found that most of the wood purchased by Global Plywood had been unlawfully harvested in Peru. According to the DOJ statement, “the corporation admitted that it failed to exercise due care when it imported illegally-sourced timber from the Peruvian Amazon into the United States. The court sentenced Global Plywood to pay $200,000 in restitution to the Ministry of Environment of Peru and a $5,000 fine.”
The shipment under investigation also carried timber to the US for other companies, including Sabra International INC, Sun Core LTD, Tropical Mouldings LLC, and Grey Forestal SA DE CV. While the official information from the Peruvian government reveals that over 98% of the timber imported by these other companies through this same shipment had an illegal origin, there is no information available yet about the legal situation or possible sanctions received by these other companies due to judicial processes in the US.
The Peruvian exporters supplying the illegal wood for Global Plywood were Inversiones La Oroza SRL and Inversiones WCA EIRL — both of which have been banned from importing to the US since 2017 and 2019 respectively by the US Trade Representative due to their involvement in illegal timber trade. Other Peruvian exporters included in this shipment are Maderas de la Selva Peruana SAC, Industrial Maderera Zapote SA, Corporación Industrial Forestal SAC and Sico Madera SAC. As EIA documented in its 2018 report “Moment of Truth“, the majority of the timber of each of the exporters in this shipment had an illegal origin verified by the relevant Peruvian authority. An investigation of the Yacu Kallpa case is still ongoing in Peru.
Lisa Handy, Director of Forest Campaigns at EIA, said: “There must be real consequences to deter those profiting from forest destruction. This case demonstrates yet again that enforcement against illegal logging and associated trade is necessary throughout the supply chain – in both the countries of origin and of destination – in order to shut down the markets for stolen timber.”
Over the course of the coronaviruspandemic, at least ten environmental defenders from the Peruvian Amazon have been assassinated by illegal logging and land grabbing mafias, eight of the victims were indigenous environmental defenders. A new report by Global Witness documented 227 deadly attacks on land defenders worldwide during the past year, making 2020 “the most dangerous year on record for people defending their homes, land and livelihoods, and ecosystems vital for biodiversity and the climate.” The report names logging as the sector linked to the most murders.
Julia Urrunaga, EIA’s Peru Director, added that “Companies that do not verify the legal origin of the timber they import into the United States not only violate the Lacey Act, they also risk being complicit in murder and other harm in forests in the Amazon and around the world, making US consumers unwitting financiers of forest crime.”