Environment Minister: Holzindustrie Schweighofer worked with illegal traders. The plant in Reci has no building license

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Schweighofer Holzindustrie: We have all the necessary permits required by the law.

The Austrian company Schweighofer Holzindustrie, the largest processor and exporter of wood in Romania, has carried out operations with ghost companies which illegally cut forests and has illegally bought raw materials from them. The accusations come from the Environment Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu in an interview with Europa FM.
Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu explained that the Environment inspectors found more than 50 ‘ghost traders’ who worked with Holzindustrie Schweighofer, which disappeared in the meantime so she notified the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime (DIICOT).
Moreover, the Environment Minister said for Europa FM that she has asked the European authorities to intervene to find the products manufactured in Romania from illegally logging and processed by the Austrian company.
The Environment Minister told Europa FM that the sawmill in Reci, Covasna County, built by the group Holzindustrie Schweighofer, has no building license.
Gavrilescu Gratiela announced she has ordered the subordinate inspectors to go to the sawmill in Reci by Friday.

In a press release sent to our editorial office, Holzindustrie Schweighofer retorts that it strictly respects all legal provisions and promotes at national and international levels the highest standards of public responsibility, according to the norms laid out by the relevant authorities.

“Our company believes that upholding a correct business model is not only a legal duty, but also a moral obligation towards our clients, employees, the community at large and the environment in which we carry out our activity.

The project in Reci represents a 150 million euro investment, which will create 650 jobs directly in the sawmill and other 2,000 jobs in related industries in the area. A production facility of this scope and with such an economic impact cannot decide to start operations without having all the necessary permits required by the law. The Reci sawmill started operations on August 20th, 2015, having the following permits issued by the relevant authorities due to compliance with all legal provisions:

Construction permit no. 220 from 24.12.2013, issued by Covasna County Council;

Operation permit no. 2 from 13.08.2015, issued by Reci City Hall;

Environmental permit no.66 from 07.08.2015, issued by Covasna Environmental Protection Agency”, reads the press release.

Austria’s Holzindustrie Schweighofer began operations in the new sawmill in Reci, Covasna County, following an investment of EUR 150 million that will generate 650 jobs for those interested to work at the plant and more than 2,000 jobs in the region. The new factory, whose construction began in December 2013, has an area of 70 hectares and a capacity of annual debiting of 800,000 m3 of wood, derived exclusively from sustainably managed forests in Romania and other countries such as Poland, Hungary Austria, Croatia, Slovenia.

According to the latest EIA’s (U.S. Environmental Investigation Agency) report – Stealing the Last Forest: Austria’s Largest Timber Company, Land Rights, and Corruption in Romania – released last week, it provides new evidence to the business practices by the Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer in Romania.
The report documents how Schweighofer processes large amounts of illegally harvested timber from Romanian forests into semi-finished wood products and biomass, selling the products throughout the European Union.
“Schweighofer is one of the largest timber companies in Europe and unfortunately a major driver of illegal logging in Romania,” said Alexander von Bismarck, Executive Director of EIA.
Also on Wednesday, WWF filed a complaint at the Federal Forest Office in Vienna for violations of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) and calls for a full investigation of the allegations against Schweighofer.
According to the report, over 50 percent of logging in Romania is illegal. This includes illegal cutting in national parks, clear-cutting, overharvesting, use of false permits, and logging on stolen land. According to the Romanian government itself, 20 percent of public forest land has been restituted illegally after the fall of Communism, instead of being returned to the rightful owners.
In turn, Schweighofer officials said in a press release that EIU report includes “biased and inaccurate information” about their activity. Moreover, Austria-based company said that had never accepted illegal wood, being an adept of responsible wood processing.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests submitted the investigation reports concerning the activity of several operators in the forestry sector to the Prosecutor’s Office upon the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ – Supreme Court). The decision was taken in view of carrying out specific research to determine whether the issues meet the constitutive elements of crimes, the ministry informed on July 30, 2015.
The ministry states that it carried out an inspection at SC Holzindustrie Schweighofer to verify compliance with the legal provisions of the origin, transport, storage, primary processing and trading of timber, including importation.

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