Key supplier was ‘teak kingpin’ who colluded with officials to defraud Myanmar
LONDON: Evidence of serious repeated violations of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) by a trader of Myanmar teak was today submitted to German and European enforcement authorities by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
The evidence underpins EIA’s concerns that multiple shipments of Myanmar teak for the company Alfred Neumann GmbH since 2013 were purchased from the businesses of corrupt Thailand-based teak kingpin Cheng Pui Chee, aka Chetta Apipatana.
The EUTR bans illegally harvested timber from being placed on the market in Europe and also requires timber operators to undertake due diligence to minimise the risks that they are supplying illegally acquired timber. Placements of Myanmar teak have previously been found in violation of the EUTR by numerous authorities in Europe.
This latest complaint formalises and expands on EIA’s February 2019 State of Corruption report, which exposed how three suppliers to Alfred Neumann described how the late Cheng Pui Chee systematically bribed senior Myanmar generals and forestry sector officials.
Cheng Pui Chee’s high-level corruption reportedly secured preferential access to harvests and impunity when systematically under-declaring teak grades to defraud the state.
EIA’s EUTR submission details how Alfred Neumann began buying from Cheng Pui Chee through his principle business partner Koh Seow Bean, based in Singapore and Malaysia.
Much of Alfred Neumann’s teak was supplied via Cheng’s and Koh’s companies, including Pacific Timber Enterprise Ltd and Northwood Ltd, in Myanmar, and Timberlux Sdn Bhd and SCK Wooden Industries Sdn Bhd, in Malaysia.
Alec Dawson, EIA Forests Campaigner, said: “EIA believes Alfred Neumann has been violating the EUTR since 2013, placing multiple shipments of Myanmar teak on the EU market which were procured from a trader involved in corruption and fraud in securing supplies.”
Inducements and kick-backs provided by Cheng reportedly included:
- tens of millions of dollars paid into personal accounts of Myanmar’s top generals;
- funding the private foreign education of senior military and timber sector officials’ children;
- payment of hospital fees, accommodation and “entertainment” for senior forestry officials in Singapore;
- purchase and gift of exotic zoo animals for Naypyidaw zoo and other lower-level bribes.
EIA’s complaint also details how another supplier in China claimed “101 per cent” of its teak is illegally logged in Myanmar and smuggled to China and that a planned shipment for Alfred Neumann would have paperwork added in Malaysia to get it into Europe despite the EUTR.
Dawson added: “Companies such as Alfred Neumann connect the world’s most corrupt teak traders with the world’s most prestigious yacht-builders and clients, contributing to the destruction of Myanmar’s teak forests.
“EIA hopes to see strong enforcement in Germany and elsewhere in Europe where this corrupt teak is found to be entering the market.”
CONTACTS FOR MEDIA
- Alec Dawson, Forests Campaigner, via alecdawson[at]eia-international.org
- Paul Newman, EIA Press & Communications Officer, via press[at]eia-international.org or +44 (0) 20 7354 7960
- The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
- The EUTR prohibits placements of illegal timber on the EU market and obliges operators to conduct due diligence to exclude illegal timber. The EUTR also provides for enforcement authorities to consider substantiated concerns submitted by third parties such as EIA.
- Alfred Neumann is the 18th company against which EIA has submitted EUTR complaints since 2015, most of which have received positive responses from by EU enforcement officials.
- Read and download State of Corruption – The top-level conspiracy behind the global trade in Myanmar’s stolen teak at https://eia-international.org/reports-mm/stateofcorruption/