Watchdog says Vietnamese officials bribed by log smugglers

Watchdog says Vietnamese officials bribed by log smugglers

BANGKOK — An environmental watchdog has accused Vietnamese government and military officials of taking payoffs to ignore vast smuggling of lucrative lumber from neighbouring Cambodia.

Millions of dollars in bribes have been paid by Vietnamese timber traders to both Vietnamese and Cambodian officials, the report issued Monday by the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency alleges.

It says the Vietnamese officials are paid off in exchange for granting import quotas for the timber and Cambodians are paid to open up logging areas and smuggling routes. The logging itself in Cambodia is often illegal, taking place in protected areas such as national parks.

Cambodia has banned the export of logs and since early 2016 has closed its border with Vietnam to timber as well. However, Vietnam has official quotas for such imports, which are also taxed.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to AP’s request for comment on the report. Sear Ra, deputy chief of Cambodia’s Forestry Administration, noted that such exporting was stopped 2016, and if it had happened since then, it would have been done secretly and illegally.

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, much of it due to illegal logging and corrupt land deals.

Much of the timber trade is protected by military units that profit from deals with the loggers.

Vietnam’s official quotas facilitate the smuggling from Cambodia and even allows Vietnam to profit by taxing the smuggled logs, the report says.

“Approximately 300,000 cubic meters of logs have been smuggled out of Cambodia and laundered in Vietnam under these quotas,” it says, estimated the kickbacks have totalled more than $13 million since the beginning of November 2016′

The watchdog says Vietnam and the European Union are expected to sign an agreement to try to ensure only legal timber is exported from Vietnam.

“This is the single largest log-smuggling operation that we have seen for years,” the group’s senior forests campaigner, Jago Wadley said in a news release. “Vietnam must address this weak approach to any agreement with the EU to combat illegal logging and the associated trade.”

The report points out that the illegal trade comes as Vietnam is working hard to protect its own forests, even as Vietnam’s government “has promoted the rapid expansion of an export-oriented wood processing sector, which has become the sixth largest in the world.”

It says Vietnamese exports of wood products are projected to total $8 billion this year, while imports account for at least 80 per cent of the raw materials consumed by its factories.

Cambodia and Laos, another neighbour of Vietnam, together provided Vietnam with illicit timber worth almost three quarters of a billion dollars in a single year, says the report, noting that a crackdown in Laos has shifted the smugglers’ attention to Cambodia.

The Associated Press

Just Posted

Flag person’s death shines light on dangers

Company calls for more awareness of and respect for flaggers

Vernon at centre of rail trails convergence

More local development input sought for Okanagan and North Okanagan/Shuswap rail trails

Vernon multi-density housing project applauded

Neighbour feels densification is “too greedy”

Outbreak affects eight people in Vernon

UPDATE: Gastrointestinal illness reported at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Military service honoured for Vernon captain

Lisa Devine presented with Canadian Forces Decoration clasp.

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Disney buying part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4B deal

Disney is buying a large part of the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox for about $52.4 billion

Bountiful polygamist believed he couldn’t be prosecuted: lawyer

Winston Blackmore’s lawyer says Blackmore did not believe he could be prosecuted

Woman charged after altercation injured baby in Toronto

Charges have been laid after a four-month-old baby girl was critically injured in Toronto

Anderson extends invitation to Liberal voters

Interim B.C. Conservative party leader invites “disenfranchised Liberal voters” to join his party

Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil announces retirement

Veteran Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil spent 15 seasons with the NHL team

Trudeau’s office confirms staffer being probed over allegations

PMO confirms staffer being probed over allegations of reported “inappropriate behaviour.”

Police kill gunman north of Toronto

Police shot and killed a gunman during a hostage situation at a bank north of Toronto

#MeToo at work: B.C. women share horrifyingly common sexual assaults

It happens to more people than you might think and impacts women inside and outside of the workplace

Most Read