Forest destruction in Romania: Large-scale raid against criminal network started

The anti-mafia prosecutor's office in Bucharest is finally taking action against the mafia structures of the Romanian timber industry. During a raid, sawmills were searched and several people were presented for questioning.

It is obvious that the massive logging in Romanian protected areas is not going according to plan. Now the authorities are responding. © Matthias Schickhofer

In the early morning of May 30, 2018, officials of the Romanian office DIICOT began a large-scale investigation against illegal practices in the wood industry in Romania. The press release speaks of a “destructive action by an organized criminal group specializing in offenses of misappropriation of public wood and also auctions, tax evasion, unfair competition, deforestation and other offenses.“

There is a “reasonable suspicion” that since 2011, several individuals have formed an organized criminal group whose members are abusing public auctions organized at the level of forestry departments in order to procure significant additional quantities of wood for processing in sawmills. Furthermore, there is reasonable suspicion that some of the processed wood comes from illegal wood sources. The estimated damage amounts to more than 25 million euros, according to DIICOT. The members of the organized criminal group also benefited from the support of some officials. A number of people will be brought to the DIICOT headquarters for questioning.

About 20 officials appeared on May 30 at the Holzindustrie Schweighofer factory in Sebes. According to the Austrian company, different premises by Holzindustrie Schweighofer throughout Romania are being examined. Apparently there are investigations against several companies and officials going on.

The concentrated intervention of the authorities has been expected in Romania for years. The current anti-mafia action takes place after a publicly-received Fact Finding mission by MEP Thomas Waitz and a protest by activists from Agent Green in the deforestation-affected Domogled National Park. (here you can see a video of the protest action) The visit of Thomas Waitz and representatives of EuroNatur and Agent Green revealed dramatic forest destruction in the heart of the National Park: precipitation of ancient beech forests, oversized and erosion-promoting forest roads or soil devastation by tractor paths in steep slopes.

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