Maputo — 20 people, seven of them Chinese citizens and the others Mozambicans, were arrested on 23 December for illegal logging in the buffer zone around the Gorongosa National Park in the central Mozambican province of Sofala.
The group was surprised by Park wardens, whom they then tried to bribe. They offered the wardens 30,000 meticais (about 490 US dollars) to allow them to continue logging. The wardens refused the bribe and seized six tucks laden with logs of monzo (scientific name Combretum Imberbe), a precious hardwood which is protected. Logging of this species is completely forbidden.
A press release from the Sofala provincial forestry and wildlife services said that the case has now been sent to the Gorongosa district attorney's office, for prosecution of the individuals concerned.
The release said that on 23 December the park wardens found a large work yard inside a forestry concession granted to the company EDN Limitada. While the EDN Concession is legal, the activities the wardens discovered there were not.
There were enormous amounts of logs from trees of various species, including freshly logged monzo. The release noted that logging this species was banned on 29 March this year in a dispatch from the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development.
The trucks carrying the monzo belonged to the timber company "Inchope Madeiras Limitada", but some of the logs were marked with the acronym of EDN, and others were marked "JLM", showing that they belonged to a third company, Jin Long Madeiras.
The wardens noted that the logs were being loaded onto the truck "by individuals of Chinese nationality".
The wardens asked them for documentation proving that their activities were legal, but instead the Chinese nationals offered them the bribe.
"The quantity and quality of the equipment used shows the financial power of this gang", said the release. "The level of organisation, the use of forestry concession and forestry companies to commit these crimes, the presence and active involvement of foreign citizens, and the lack of any identification documents on the part of the foreigner leading the group, makes it clear that these are individuals who belong to transnational organised crime networks".
The release urged a thorough investigation to discover the full details of this criminal network, and uncover all its leading figures.