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Investigation finds Russian loggers 'laundering' illegal timber

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Three nations appear to be guilty in the pillaging of a virgin forest. It has been learned that Russian loggers have been selling illegal timber to a flooring company in the United States after "laundering" the logs in China.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A three-year investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency, or EIA, a U.S.-based advocacy group, has revealed an illegal network. Loggers, connected with Russia's large organized crime network is operating out of a temperate forest in Russia's far east region to sell stolen old-growth lumber to Chinese manufacturers for export around the world.

Eighty percent of the lumber exported from the region is illegal. In addition to the destruction wreaked upon by the environment, the illegal operation is harming the livelihoods of local people who rely on the forest. The logging is also endangering the habitat for the 450 remaining Siberian tigers.

"Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Flooring, Organized Crime and the World's Last Siberian Tigers" released by the EIA this week tells of how rampant illegal logging in the world's last region of temperate old-growth hardwood consumer demand for hardwood flooring end up complicit in forest destruction.

"Importing cheap illegal wood from the Russian far east is a tragic crime of convenience that directly undercuts any business trying to play by the rules," Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the non-profit group that works to expose environmental crimes says. "The same types of wood are available around the world from legal and sustainable sources."

U.S. investigators raided the offices of Lumber Liquidators last month after EIA showed them the allegations laid out in its report that the discount flooring company violated a 2008 U.S. law that prohibits dealing in illegally sourced lumber.

Under the Lacey Act, companies are required to check their supply chain. The EIA says that that Lumber Liquidators' Chinese manufacturer Xingjia made no secret of the fact that the bulk of its wood came from illegal loggers in Russia, which would be simple for the U.S. company to find out.

Lumber Liquidators says it has policies in place on sourcing and is reviewing the EIA report, which it said it believes has a number of inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims.

"We support protection of the environment and responsible forest management, and if we find that any of the company's suppliers are not adhering to our standards, we will discontinue sourcing from those suppliers," company spokeswoman Leigh Parrish says.

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