The Gabon government has suspended the logging license at two sites run by a large, privately-owned Chinese logging company that allegedly engaged in widespread illegal activities, according to a report by Agence France Presse.
The Dejia Group was singled out last month in a damning report by the U.S.-arm of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) after a four-year investigation that revealed the company “continuously [broke] the most fundamental forest laws, turned timber trade regulations upside down and diverted millions in unpaid taxes from the governments of Gabon and the Republic of Congo.”
EIA’s findings reveal that one of the most influential Chinese groups of affiliated timber companies in Africa, “Dejia Group,” has built its corporate empire on bribery, tax evasion, and forest crimes. — Environmental Investigation Agency
Friday’s decision to strip a Dejia Group subsidiary, Société de Sciage de Moanda (SSMO), of its logging license was a bold move considering how powerful the Group is in the Gabon timber sector. Dejia Group, according to the EIA report, manages more than 1.5 million hectares across Gabon and the Republic of Congo in the Congo Basin rain forest. The company has been active in the region for more than a decade and is reportedly one of the most influential timber groups in Africa, said EIA.
The government, for its part, tried to play down the suspensions of Dejia Group’s logging license at the two sites as just “as a precautionary measure.” But local environmental activists are encouraged by the move they say was prompted by the EIA report.
Marc Ona, head of a Gabonese environmental group called Brainforest, told AFP that without the EIA report, “the ministry perhaps would not have carried out the inquiry” into SSMO. “This means that, in the ministry, there isn’t a team to check that loggers are upholding the law,” he added.
EIA Senior Policy Advisor Lisa Handy was one of the authors of the report. She joins Eric and Cobus to talk about the investigation and what her organization recommends can be done to limit the actions of Dejia Group and other logging violators to halt the rapid, and illegal, deforestation of the Congo Basin that is fast becoming an ecological crisis with global implications.
- The Citizen: Gabon suspends permit for Chinese logger after watchdog probe by Agence France Presse
- Environmental Investigation Agency: Toxic Trade: Forest Crime in Gabon and the Republic of Congo and Contamination of the US Market
- Africa Times: Report finds Chinese firms linked to illegal logging in Gabon, Congo
Lisa Handy is the Director of Forest Campaigns at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), where she focuses primarily on illegal logging issues as well as illegal deforestation and land conversion for the production of other forest-risk commodities, and related illicit trade. During her time at EIA, she has also worked to combat wildlife trafficking and climate change. Prior to joining EIA in 2009, Ms. Handy served as Senior Director for Government Affairs at Conservation International (CI), where she led CI’s work with the U.S. Administration and Congress, focusing on policy and funding priorities for biodiversity conservation and climate change. In addition, her responsibilities included engagement with the World Bank, UN agencies, and the Global Environment Facility.