Tag Archives: corruption

More justice for murdered foresters through international pressure

In an international petition, an alliance of nature conservation organisations called for more justice and an impartial investigation into the murder of Liviu Pop, forest ranger and forest protector in Romania. The petition was now successful: Thanks to the great solidarity, the case is now transferred to the Romanian Supreme Court in Bucharest.

A few weeks ago, two Romanian forest rangers were killed in just one month. Both had worked to protect the forests and reported illegal deforestation. The first of them was Raducu Gorcioaia, who has been working to preserve Romania´s forests for many years. He was, only a few days later, followed by Liviu Pop, who left behind a wife and three young children. Both wanted to uncover illegal deforestation and paid for it with their lives.

The extent of crime in Romania’s forests is shocking. Not only are 20 million cubic metres of wood logged illegally every year – even in protected areas – but foresters and conservationists are also brutally attacked and sometimes even killed. In the plast 5 years alone, 6 murders and over 650 attacks have been registered by the Romanian Forestry Union.
Together with Declic, Greenpeace Romania and WeMove, EuroNatur and Agent Green demanded justice for the murdered rangers. With the help of a petition they asked for international support. In just a few days, the petition was signed by over 100,000 people. The case of Liviu Pop´s murder was first dealt with in by the  prosecuter´s office in Maramures, where Pop lived and was found dead in the forest. However, a connection was suspected between the responsible prosecuter, the suspected murderers and the profiteers of the illegal timber business. As the court in  Bucharest is believed to be impartial the organisations demanded that the investigations are continued there.

Even before we were able to hand over the petition, the pressure was strong enough: On 22. November 2019, the Prosecutor General decided that the case would be transferred from the Maramures Court to the Romanian Supreme Court in Bucharest.
“We are happy that Raducu Gorcioaia and Liviu Pop as well as their families and friends will now have the chance for a fair prosecution of the case and thereforemore  justice. Nevertheless, the problem in Romania’s forests has not yet been solved. As long as corruption, mafia-like timber trading and illegal logging are common in Romania, foresters and conservationists are not safe. Romania urgently needs to consistently tackle illegal practices and corruption in the forestry sector. This is the only way to protect the forest and the people in Romania who are committed to its protection”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur.


Here the official announcement.

Fresh logging in Domogled national park ©Alexandru Teleaga

EuroNatur and Agent Green: Romania must intensify fight against mafia and corruption in forestry sector

Forest crimes and violence against authorities and conservationists are on the rise in Romania. The latest incidents of where two forest rangers were killed by thugs within just four weeks draws a shocking picture of eroding law enforcement within the Romanian forest sector: Illegal logging and criminal practices including mafia style threats against authorities and NGO conservationists are a major problem. Therefore, EuroNatur Foundation and the Romanian environmental organisation Agent Green urge the incoming new government in Romania to massively step up the fight against illegal logging and corruption as a top priority.

Even official sources give evidence of wide spread criminal practices in the Romanian forest sector. According to leaked information from the still not fully published second National Forest Inventory, more than half of the 38 million cubic meters annual wood harvest in Romania are not based upon approved management plans. This large scale of unapproved logging implies that illegal practices combined with corruption are omnipresent in the whole country and on all levels of sector, from forest workers via police to high levels officials in Bucharest.

“We wish to express our deep condolences with the families of Raducu Gorcioaia and Liviu Pop. These tragic cases are only the tip of a huge iceberg of corruption, greedy logging, mafia style threats and crimes within the Romanian forestry sector. Europe needs to draw more attention on the destruction of (in the temperate Zone) Europe’s biggest natural forest treasure in Romania. This is Europe’s equivalent to the Amazon forest. Romania must become serious with its fight against mafia networks and corruption, in particular in the forestry sector,“ Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur Foundation said.

„The spate of killings and attacks is outrageous. We are particularly angry and concerned about the apparent impunity of the killers. This things keep happening. We haven’t seen much effort from the Romanian authorities neither to stop illegal logging nor to protect forest defenders. State forest workers, journalists and NGOs all feel threatened. We call on the incoming new government to immediately ensure that the ‚Forest Inspector’ app is fully operational again and to pursue a concerted national police operation to tackle the forest mafia before Europe’s last great primary and old growth temperate forests are gone for ever,“ Gabriel Paun, president of the NGO Agent Green declared.

Gabriel Paun has been attacked himself several times by criminals in Romanian forests. Finally one case is going to court soon. „It took prosecutors four years and a half to prosecute the attackers. The attack was taped, there was video footage, there was plenty of proof, they knew the attackers. But these guys were always free, and I always feared for my life over these past years that they will find me and finish what they started,“ Gabriel Paun said.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims. They lost their lifes while working for our environment and protecting Romania´s forests. We deeply hope that foresters and rangers in Romania – and anywhere else – will be able to work without such threats as they contribute to the conservation of our natural heritage.



Romanian State Forest Manager caught stealing trees from National Park

Ministry of Environment must put an end to all logging in national parks

Agent Green investigators have exposed the theft of trees from Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park by a Romsilva employee from the Baia de Arama forest district. Romsilva is the designated state agency managing all State Forests and 12 National Parks in Romania.

Romania hosts the largest share of the EU’s remaining primeval and natural forests. But these primeval and old growth forests, including in national parks, are being deliberately logged, degraded and destroyed. Investigators of the Romanian NGO Agent Green have discovered that forest logging within Domogled – Valea Cernei National Park has been undertaken by the national park manager who is supposedly responsible for their conservation.

Gabriel Paun, president of Agent Green was in the park that day. “I was in an area of the national park where old growth beech forest is found. I found loggers there even though there was no legal concession on that spot. Immediately I knew the logging was illegal. The biggest shock was that the thief was the one who should defend the forest from illegal logging: Romsilva, the state forest and park manager. The individual was using a local logging and transport company to get the wood out of the park. He was not shy to admit that the plan was to cut the whole forest”, Paun says.

Romsilva Was Caught In The Act While Stealing Forests In Domogled National Park from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Agent Green and the German nature conservation foundation EuroNatur have launched the joint campaign “Save Paradise Forests” to call the attention of the international public to the colossal destruction of old forests in Romania’s national parks.

In this case, the illegally cut beech trees were loaded in a rented truck. The investigators followed the truck on the ground and by air with a drone to a log yard that is hidden in the middle of the forest. There the wood was transferred to another truck that is owned by the logging company. The trees were never registered in the official application and portal for wood traceability.

“We are dealing here with a clear case showing how one can easily cheat the system because its improvement is blocked by the current Government. Log yards are being used illegal wood and the Government tolerates this. Sadly, today we have caught in the act an employee of the State forest company”, alleges Paun.

The investigators contacted the police and sent all the evidence to the local chief of police who investigated the case further. In a letter [1] to Agent Green investigators, the chief of police concluded that the transport was legal. But the case was taken higher to the regional Forest Guard. Their commissaries identified the illegal logging area and the evidence was sent straight to criminal prosecutors [2].

“It is alarming that the people who should guard the forest steal from it, even from within a national park. We call on the Romanian Government to immediately halt commercial logging in all Romanian national parks. Those forests are part of our shared European heritage, their destruction is irreversible”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur.

Currently, none of Romania’s 13 national parks meets the international standards set by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) [3]. According to IUCN, the key principle of a national park is non-intervention and forest owners must agree to establish a national park and they should not be financially disadvantaged by the strict protection status of their forests.

EuroNatur and Agent Green call on the Romanian Government to:

  • Immediately and completely ban logging in all national parks and to improve implementation of its primeval forests protection program
  • Enlarge core zones, meaning non-intervention zones, of all national parks according to international standards and IUCN recommendations of at least 75% of surface area
    Take over the administration of all national parks by the State, establishment of independent and modern national park management in all Romanian parks following best practice examples (Germany, Austria, Sweden etc.)
  • Ensure adequate public funding for and promotion of Romania’s national parks
    Provide private forest owners within the national park boundaries with appropriate compensation
  • Re-define the boundaries of national parks based on rigorous scientific criteria and include all remaining old growth/primeval forests in Romania’s national parks core zones
    Develop and implement an integrated national ecotourism strategy to ensure the preservation and promotion of national parks, to improve services and provide support to local communities
  • Establish new national parks including in Făgăraş, Giumalau, Ţarcu and Ciucas forests

[1] Letter no. 626462 / 30.7.2018 of Ministry for Internal Affairs, Gorj County Police Inspectorate, Tismana Police Station
[2] Ramnicu Valcea Forest Guard letter 14185 / 28.8.2018
[3] Briefing about the drama of national parks in Romania.