The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has decided to place the Schweighofer Group on probation for possible disassociation for involvement in irregularities and illegalities in its timber trade operations and in illegal logging by its Romanian forest land enterprise, ihb.de reports.
Under probation, the Schweighofer Group is required to meet a number of conditions prior to the next meeting of the FSC International Board of Directors to be held from 7th to 10th February 2017. If the group fails to do so, the board will then decide for disassociation.
FSC firmly believes that this decision is the most effective way to ensure that the Schweighofer Group engages in actions to fully address any involvement in irregularities and illegalities in its timber trade operations and in illegal logging by its Romanian forest enterprise.
The decision was based on a report by an independent complaints panel appointed in March 2016 that has conducted an in-depth investigation of the allegations against Schweighofer Group’s forestry related business operations in Romania and raised in a Policy for Association complaint by WWF Germany against the group.
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 came from the then Environment Minister Gratiela Gavrilescu on October 15, 2015 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.
According to the EIA’s (U.S. Environmental Investigation Agency) report – Stealing the Last Forest: Austria’s Largest Timber Company, Land Rights, and Corruption in Romania – released in October 22, 2015 evidence was revealed 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.
In another development, the Pitesti Court of Appeal made the final sentences on June 6 in a part of the file on the illegal restitution of forest in the Puru, Galbenu and Petrimanu Mountains in Valcea County and decided to convict four members of the network which sold timber to the Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer from illegally returned forests. Total sentences are of 23 years and 6 months imprisonment plus EUR 4 million and interest payment by Mircea Basarabă , former mandatory of the company Holzindustrie Schweighofer, George Deaconeasa – former contractual partner of the firm, Mihai Dan Petrulian and Constantin Păduraru.