Amazon massacre: global companies accused of importing timber

The first-world buyers continued to trade with the the founder of a Brazilian logging firm, who is accused of ordering the murder and torture of nine people

Over a dozen European and US businesses have been importing timber from a Brazilian logging firm, whose owner is implicated in what’s being described as an “Amazonian massacre”, according to a Greenpeace investigation.

The first-world buyers allegedly continued to trade with Madeireira Cedro Arana, after police accused its founder, Valdelir João de Souza, of ordering the murder and torture of nine people in Colniza, Mato Grosso, on 19 April, according to a report by the NGO’s Unearthed investigative team.

The state attorney alleged that de Souza organised the assassinations to gain access to the forest where the victims, all of whom were smallholders, lived. Since the indictment on 15 May, the suspect has been on the run.

Valdelir Francisco de Souza (Photo: Adjori/SC)
Valdelir Francisco de Souza (Photo: Adjori/SC)

During this time, the fugitive’s company allegedly sold products to foreign firms who shipped them to the US, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and Japan.

Greenpeace claimed that these shipments may be in contravention of the US Lacey Act, which bans trade in timber that violates any foreign law, and the European Union’s timber regulation, which obliges companies to conduct due diligence to ensure there is “no more than a negligible risk that it has been illegally harvested.”

It lists the 12 companies involved as Pine Products, Lacey Wood Products, Mid-State Lumber Corp, South Florida Lumber, Wood Brokerage International, Vogel Import & Export Nv, Delfin Germany Gmbh, Tiger Deck Llc, Global Timber, Cibm Centre Import Bois, Derlage Junior Hout and Global Gold Forest Lda Industries. 

Even before this year’s massacre, the report alleges these firms should have hesitated to do business with Madeireira Cedro Arana because it had accrued about £130,000 in unpaid federal fines for stocking and trading illegal timber. There also appears to be evidence of widespread fraud, timber laundering and killings of forest defenders in Amazon states including Mato Grosso.

Greenpeace urged US and European authorities to consider Brazilian timber to be at high risk of coming from an illegal source, and thus to oblige companies to go beyond official paperwork and to carry out third-party field audits.

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