Complicit in corruption: Earthsight report reveals supply chain is permeated with illegality from harvest to export, enabled through an epidemic of corruption …
An investigation released by Earthsight reveals how European consumers are contributing to an epidemic of corruption in Ukraine’s forests, in a trade worth over a billion Euros each year.
The findings are revealed in Complicit in Corruption, a report from the UK-based non-profit Earthsight, and are the culmination of two years of work, including field and undercover investigations. The report also points the finger at EU governments and some of the world’s largest multinational wood processing companies.
Earthsight underlines that Ukraine is home to some of the largest tracts of forest left on the continent, home to rare animals such as bears, wolves, lynx and bison. As well as threatening these forests, the report shows, the EU’s imports are undermining the efforts of Ukraine to establish the rule of law.
Former President Viktor Yanukovych is reckoned to have stolen more than $100 billion from the state during 2010-14, and the country continues to battle some of the highest levels of corruption in the world.
The wood imported from Ukraine is used in a vast array of products in Europe. “Your roof, your floor, your table, the newspaper you are holding, all might well be made from Ukrainian wood” said Sam Lawson, Earthsight’s Director. “And if it is, there is a good chance it was cut or traded illegally, abetted by high-level corruption”.
Complicit in Corruption reveals how illegality permeates the timber supply chain in Ukraine from harvest to export. Field investigations indicate that 40 per cent of the timber being produced by the country’s state-owned enterprises is illegally cut through the abuse of a loophole allowing trees to be harvested to prevent the spread of disease.
Court records unearthed by Earthsight also show that top forestry officials in Ukraine’s largest timber-producing provinces are the subject of major criminal investigations, involving systematic illegal logging and timber exports. A former national forest chief, Viktor Sivets, is on the run, accused of having received over €30 million in illegal kickbacks into Swiss bank accounts from overseas log buyers in exchange for access to cheap wood. The payments were routed through UK letterbox firms with owners registered in secrecy jurisdictions such as Panama. Earthsight uncovered evidence that such high-level corruption has continued under his successors. (Source: Earthsight)