Environmental scams in Amazon

Dawn timber-laundering raids cast doubt on ‘sustainable’ Brazilian wood

Police investigating suspected environmental scams swoop on state officials and businessmen in Amazon area known for woods used in furniture and decking

Madeira-2Illegally logged timber that has been confiscated by authorities is floated downriver in Pará state, northern Brazil. Photograph: Reuters

The raids began at dawn as the sun rose over the Tapajós river and more than 100 police swooped on a dozen locations in the most sophisticated operation yet against suspected timber laundering in Brazil– a practice that allows consumers in the US and Europe to buy flooring and furniture with what they think is a clear conscience.

More than 30 officials, local businessmen and sawmill owners were arrested in Pará state in the north of the country this morning as prosecutors targeted what they say is a criminal organisation that whitewashes environmental crimes and reveals the flimsiness of Brazil’s logging controls.

The investigation may have international ramifications. One third of Brazil’s timber exports, worth £496m annually, went to the EU (particularly France) and a slightly smaller share to the US. More than half of this wood was from Pará state, which is the main source for the dense hardwoods such as ipê (Brazilian walnut) used in construction, decking and furniture. Read more.