Myanmar teak importers violate European law

Myanmar teak importers violate European law – World’s largest sailing yacht implicated

 

LONDON: When German boat builders finally complete Sailing Yacht ‘A’ – the world’s largest ever – it will sail away with decks crafted from illegitimate teak sourced from Myanmar.

At nearly 150m long and 100m tall, the yacht is being built in Nobiskrug shipyard for Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko at a cost of £260 million.

But a two-month investigation by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) identified a shipment of 1,278 pieces of teak costing €174,750 being used aboard the yacht. This was one of many shipments from Myanmar by Teak Solutions, imported in direct violation of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR).

The case is highlighted in the new briefing Overdue Diligence: Teak exports from Myanmar in breach of European rules which summarises legal complaints submitted on October 13 by EIA to authorities in five countries regarding violations of the EUTR by nine companies, which include the largest teak suppliers to the EU. The companies named are:

  • Antonini Legnami, Basso Legnami and Bellotti Spa, which have placed Burmese teak on the market in Italy;
  • Boogaerdt Wood, Gold Teak Holdings and World Wood, which have placed Burmese teak on the market in the Netherlands;
  • Crown Teak, which has placed Burmese teak on the market in Belgium;
  • Keflico, which has placed Burmese teak on the market in Denmark;
  • Teak Solutions, which has placed Burmese teak on the market in Germany.

The EUTR is a legal instrument prohibiting flows of illegal timber from around the world from entering the EU market. Central to its requirements is ‘due diligence’, obliging companies to identify and mitigate any risks of illegality in their supply chains.

All nine companies failed to identify or verify the source of the teak, a clear right to harvest or information that might mitigate the risks of harvesting in violation of relevant forestry provisions. One firm, Keflico, accepted documents it believed to include false information (see note 5 below).

EIA Forests Campaigner Peter Cooper said: “EIA recognises that these nine companies have made some limited attempt to conduct due diligence but were effectively prevented by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, a state-owned company, from obtaining or verifying any of the essential information required.

“This lack of information fundamental to due diligence means none of the companies should have conducted this trade, but instead they decided to procure the teak and place it on the market in violation of European law.”

EIA’s previous investigations into illegal logging in Myanmar clearly demonstrate a high risk of illegality, exacerbated by the total lack of any verification of legality upstream of the point of sale by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE), the body through which all timber in the country must be sold.

“In simple terms, no teak from Myanmar can legally be placed on the EU market due to the high risk of illegality associated with timber from that country and the lack of transparency by its Government to allow access to information that might demonstrate compliance,” added Cooper.

EIA is urging European national authorities to uphold their EUTR enforcement obligations against all shipments by all of the companies since the EUTR’s entry into legal force in March 2013 and further calls on the European Commission to ensure they do so.

 

 

EDITORS’ NOTES

  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK- and Washington DC-based Non-Governmental Organisation that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste and trade in climate- and ozone-altering chemicals.
  1. Read & download Overdue Diligence: Teak exports from Myanmar may breach European rules here.
  1. The cases submitted and supporting documents are available to view on request; please contact EIA for access.
  1. Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE) is one of the governmental institutions under Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC), previously known as the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry (MOECAF). It is responsible for harvesting, sawmilling, downstream processing, and marketing of timber.
  1. Keflico, a major Danish timber firm, admitted to EIA that it is aware the Myanmar Timber Enterprise is providing it with parcels of teak claimed to originate from a single location when in fact these comprise logs from multiple areas with fake origin documents (August 2016).

 

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