7 May 2018

Mozambique: Finally, Charges Brought Against Timber Smugglers

Maputo — Prosecutors in the northern province of Cabo Delgado have charged the Chinese-owned company MOFID (Mozambique First International Development Ltd) with contraband, involving the attempted illegal export of 47 containers that were found to contain 1,125 logs of various species of precious hardwoods.

The crime was discovered well over a decade ago, on 17 January 2006. On the basis of an anonymous tip-off, the authorities opened the containers that were stored in the port of Pemba, the provincial capital, waiting to be exported to China.

According to a report in the Maputo daily "Noticias", a multi-sector commission was set up, which worked in January 2007, listing all the logs found in the containers. The commission found that senior MOFID staff had ordered that the logs be packed into containers without the legally necessary presence of any inspectors from the provincial forestry department.

The prosecutors said the MOFID staff were fully aware of the illegality of their actions, but wet ahead anyway, in the knowledge that the illegal export would be highly profitable for the company and its partners.

The Cabo Delgado provincial attorney's office has not explained why it took so long to bring charges in such an open and shut case of trafficking in timber.

It has long been suspected that senior officials were involved in the looting of Mozambican forests, and facilitated illegal logging, much of it done by Chinese companies. This attitude has changed under the current government, which has slapped an outright ban on all exports of unprocessed logs.

The Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, Celso Correia, has spearheaded a drive to clamp down on environmental crimes. In last year's "Operation Trunk", around 150,000 cubic metres of illicitly logged timber was seized from timber yards across northern and central Mozambique.

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