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Mozambique loses a fortune to illegal timber exports

Corruption in world’s fourth poorest country aids illegal logging & timber smuggling to China

LONDON: Weak forest governance and corruption in Mozambique are facilitating illegal logging and timber smuggling to supply China’s voracious demand, costing the fourth least developed country in the world tens of millions in lost taxes annually.

The new report First Class Connections: Log Smuggling, Illegal Logging and Corruption in Mozambique by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) exposes massive discrepancies in import/export data between Mozambique and China, indicating that half the timber flowing into China is illegal.

Compiling evidence from research and undercover operations in both countries, the report features detailed investigative case studies into some of the biggest companies engineering these crimes in Mozambique today, exposing both the smuggling techniques used and the political patronage and corruption that facilitate them.

EIA forests campaigner Chris Moye said: “Despite recent commendable efforts by the Mozambican Government to control the illegal trade in timber to China, our investigation uncovers how high-level politicians, in league with unscrupulous Chinese traders, continue to not only breach Mozambique’s export and forest laws but are now putting pressure on the sustainable yield of Mozambique’s forests”.

Mozambique’s timber trade reveals major trade data discrepancies revealing that in 2012 Chinese companies imported between 189,615 and 215,654 cubic metres of timber that had been illegally exported from Mozambique – comprising a staggering 48 per cent of China’s imports from the country.

China’s 2012 imports from Mozambique dwarf not only licensed exports, but also exceed the licensed harvest by 154,030 cubic metres, generating an alarming 48 per cent illegal logging rate.

Furthermore, the United Nations ranks Mozambique as the fourth least developed country in the world. Against the background of Mozambique’s poverty, EIA estimates that about US$ US$29,172,350 in avoided tax may have been lost to State revenues in 2012 from unlicensed exports to China worth US$130,834,350.

In comparison, the estimated financing need for Mozambique’s National Forest Program’s law enforcement system for 2006-10 was US$1,051,470, while total zoning and detailed inventory costs for the same period were estimated at US$10,716,911. These costs could be covered almost three times over by the lost revenues.

Among the report’s recommendations, EIA urges the Government of Mozambique to:
• Institute an immediate log-export ban of all timber species;
• Initiate a joint investigation with China into the illegal timber trade;
• Institute a wide-ranging investigation into forest sector corruption, including the involvement of police, customs and forest officials;
• Investigate illegal exports of unprocessed timber by companies named in the report.

EIA further calls on the Government of China to:
• Prohibit the import of illegal timber into China;
• Liaise with Mozambique on its timber export laws, and coordinate with them on imports into China;
• Ensure State-owned companies are not exporting illegal timber from Mozambique, nor importing it into China.


Interviews, footage and images are available on request: please contact Chris Moye at [email protected] or telephone 020 7354 7960.



1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.

2. Read & download First Class Connections here.


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960