Stealing the Last Forest: Austria’s Largest Timber Company, Land Rights, and Corruption in Romania

October 22, 2015 •English •Views: 3127

Romania is home to Europe’s last remaining virgin forests and some of the continent’s largest populations of bears, wolves, and lynx. Theseforests are under serious threat due to rampant illegal logging. Over a multi-year investigation, EIA documented this illegal logging and found a major driver behind this destruction was an Austrian-based timber and wood processing company known as Holzindustrie Schweighofer.

Earlier this year, EIA released a video documenting how Schweighofer willingly and knowingly accepted illegally harvested timber and incentivized additional cutting through a bonus system. The company is the largest buyer of softwood timber in Romania, responsible for processing around 40% of the country’s total annual softwood production. It then sells this processed timber to nearly every European Union member state, to popular biomass companies, to be used as bio-fuel and lumber.

EIA’s report, Stealing the Last Forest: Austria’s Largest Timber Company, Land Rights, and Corruption in Romania, provides new evidence to Schweighofer’s illegal business practices and documents the many types of illegalities prevailing in Romania’s forests. In nearly every case investigated, the illicit wood arrived at Schweighofer’s mills. The report also identifies Europe’s largest buyers of Schweighofer’s products.

Read EIA’s press release on the official launch of Stealing the Last Forest here.

Related Information & Timeline:
December 22, 2014 – Romanian organization Agent Green releases a video in which the organization’s director is beaten and pepper-sprayed by Schweighofer’s guards while tracking illegal timber to a Schweighofer mill (the investigation was conducted earlier that year)
April 2015 – Romanian media releases a leaked letter from September 2014, sent from Schweighofer CEO, Gerald Schweighofer, to the Romanian Prime Minister demanding that a proposed forest law be amended, threatening consequences to trade relations between Austria and Romania if not
April 27 – EIA releases undercover video exposing Holzindustrie Schweighofer of accepting illegal wood
May – Schweighofer attempts to justify the CEO’s bullish intervention in Romanian domestic politics by releasing its own letter
May 7 – Leading German news magazine Der Spiegel concludes that Schweighofer conducted illegal activity, following its own review of information provided by EIA
May 9 – Following EIA’s video and the Der Spiegel article, thousands of Romanians protest in the streets of Bucharest, outraged over the forest destruction in Romania
July – Romanian Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests announces an investigation of Schweighofer’s operations found various violations of the law, including illegally logged timber. The investigation report is handed over to the Prosecutor’s Office of Romania’s Supreme Court of Justice
August 6 – Forest certification body, PEFC files a complaint on compliance against Schweighofer in light of EIA’s April video and an investigation by the Romanian government
October 7 – Despite documented illegalities, PEFC drops its complaint
October 21 – EIA releases report, Stealing the Last Forest: Austria’s Largest Timber Company, Land Rights, and Corruption in Romania; WWF demands full investigation and files EUTR complaint

Download the full report in English, German and Romanian here.

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