Danish Timber Giants caught illegally exporting Liberian timber to Europe

By Our Monrovia correspondent | October 14, 2013


Liberia's illegal timber trail
Liberia's illegal timber trade (Global Witness)

Danish timber giant Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman (DLH) purchased illegal timber worth more than three hundred million US dollars from Liberia in 2012, Global Witness revealed today.
One of the world's leading international timber and wood product wholesalers, the company previously bought conflict timber financing the government of recently convicted war criminal Charles Taylor during the country’s brutal civil war.

Global Witness’ investigations show that DLH purchased 1,281 m³ of timber from two Liberian companies in 2012, which was cut under logging contracts called Private Use Permits (PUPs) and exported to Bangladesh, China and France. PUPs have now been ruled illegal by the Liberian government, whose 2012 investigation into their use reported widespread fraud and corruption by companies and Liberian officials. In 2011, the UN Panel of Experts also stated that timber from PUPs could be used to finance conflict, and threatened the country’s fragile sustainability and anti-corruption efforts.

The revelations put DLH in breach of its certification from industry body the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), whose flagship conference on corporate social responsibility it is sponsoring in Copenhagen today. Under the scheme’s rules, companies may not be involved in illegal logging, human rights violations, or the destruction of valuable forests. Any further imports of illegal timber into Europe would also make the company liable to criminal sanctions under the EU’s new Timber Regulations, which came into force on 3 March 2013, and bans illegal timber imports, requiring companies importing timber into the region to carry out thorough checks to ensure that the timber was logged according to the producer country’s laws.

“DLH seems to have learned nothing from the past. It’s appalling that a company that helped finance vicious armed conflict ten years ago continues to do such damage to Liberia’s forests and people, especially whilst trading so heavily on its sustainability credentials in public,” said Alexandra Pardal of Global Witness. “In buying this illegal timber, DLH has helped steal valuable resources from one of the poorest countries in the world. Charles Taylor was a key beneficiary of DLH's dealings, and he’s just been brought to justice in The Hague - it’s about time DLH is also stopped and held to account for its actions.”

During the civil war in Liberia from 2000-2003, DLH bought timber from Liberian companies that provided support to Charles Taylor's brutal regime. Evidence gathered by a group of NGOs including Global Witness, Greenpeace France and Amis de la Terre suggested that DLH knew where the timber was coming from, and who was benefiting from the sales, and yet it continued purchasing it. Although Taylor has now been convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague for war crimes, including the use of natural resources to fund conflict, DLH has never been prosecuted for its own role.

“DLH must stop purchasing illegal timber from Liberia –there is no excuse for this. It has an office in Liberia and has been operating there for years, so it should have known that UN and NGO reports were widely available showing the serious risk that this timber was illegal,” said Pardal.“ DLH should now give back to the Liberian rural communities $300,000, the value of the timber that was stolen from their forests.”