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

Cable Car quarry to go ahead

A second application for a quarry on Kitamaat Village Road is underway

Heavy rains threatened operations at Rio Tinto

Situation aggravated by the washout of the PNG gas pipeline

Ross backs Wilkinson for head of BC Liberals

“As an urbanite, he’s very aware of the issues that are important to rural people.” - Ross

Amendments will prevent unreasonable rent increases

The amendments would improve the rights of renters throughout the province.

VIDEO: Researchers rely on drones to survey aftermath of B.C. wildfires

UBC researchers are using aerial drones to study the historic 2017 wildfires in the province

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

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

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

#MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment

B.C. workplaces are getting ahead of being the next MeToo debacle, calling on experts to train staff

New real estate rule will hurt Kitimat market

“I feel I have been robbed of what I have been good at for the past nine years”

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Most Read