Timber merchants face prosecution over illegal imports from Myanmar

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The public prosecution department is planning to take legal action against at least two Dutch timber merchants for their role in importing illegal teak from Myanmar, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Wednesday.

It is the first time company officials have faced criminal prosecution for the offence and should be seen as a sign of a tougher approach to environmental crime, chief prosecutor Guus Schram told the FD. The two face up to six years in jail.

The public prosecutor says the two timber companies brought the wood to the Netherlands via the Czech Republic to avoid an EU import ban. Timber from Myanmar is controversial because it is impossible to find out if it is legal or not.

‘This is a form of organised crime – legal companies committing criminal acts,’ Schram said. ‘There is a lot of money circulating in the illegal timber trade and in yacht building in the Netherlands. And on the other side of the world, illegal felling is having a disastrous ecological impact.’

The hard line follows the publication of a government report which criticised the low priority given to environmental crime on all levels of the legal pyramid, from police to local government.

The department has not published the names of the two men or the companies involved.

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