Danish Timber Trader's Links Exposed

The Perspective

July 17, 2001

A Danish-owned corporation - a major exporter of logs to Europe - Dalhoff Larsen and Horneman (DLH), has been called upon to stop dealing with Liberian logging companies implicated by the United Nations in arms trafficking. Based on findings of research conducted by environmental and human rights organizations (Global Witness, Greenpeace and Nepenthes), DLH exports logs into Europe from the Liberian-based logging companies, Oriental Timber Corporation (OTC) and the Royal Timber Corporation (RTC).

In a scathing report submitted by the UN Panel of Experts on Sierra Leone last year to the Security Council, tracing the linkages between arms, diamonds and logs, which subsequently led to the imposition of sanctions on Liberia for its support to the rebel RUF and its role in fueling the crisis in Sierra Leone, OTC was cited as providing an important resource-generating ground for Mr. Taylor and his associates.

In an open letter sent to DLH corporate structure by Global Witness, Greenpeace, and Nepenthes (a Danish environmental group), the organizations wrote:

"Destructive logging companies such as OTC and RTC serve as a vital capital base for president Taylor and his associates now that a UN embargo on the diamond trade has been imposed.

"Buying from these companies is clearly incompatible with your public environmental and timber purchasing policies. It also flies in the face of your status as a company member of Amnesty International Denmark.

"Given the importance DLH claims to give to tracing the origin of the timber products bought by your company - carried out by your Forestry and Environmental Department in the producer countries - you should be clearly informed about the anarchic forest practices that is going on in Liberia and the established links between the Liberian timber industry and the war in Sierra Leone.

"We call upon DLH to immediately cancel all your business relationships with any company that carries out logging operations in Liberia, or sells Liberian timber, until independent investigations confirm that the Liberian timber trade is no longer involved in arms trafficking towards Sierra Leone and that companies commit themselves to responsible forest management."

In a press release issued yesterday, the three organizations (Global Witness, Greenpeace and Nepenthes) stated:

"DLH exports logs into Europe from the Liberia-based logging companies, Oriental Timber Company (OTC) and the Royal Timber Corporation (RTC). A recent UN report from the Sierra Leone Expert Panel (2) highlights the key role played by the logging industry in Liberia in assisting arms trafficking. Not only does the industry provide Charles Taylor's Liberian government with money through 'unrecorded extra-budgetary income', the report also states that logging trucks and logging roads near the border with Sierra Leone are used to provide the rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) with arms and provisions.

"'The RUF are responsible for the murders of hundreds of innocent people in Sierra Leone and have maimed thousands more. Unless a total embargo is placed on the export and trade in Liberian timber, the deadly collusion between the timber industry and the Liberian government means that arms trafficking with the RUF in Sierra Leone will continue unchecked', said Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness in London.

"The UN report lays particular emphasis on the role played by the chairman of OTC, Dutch national Gus Van Kouwenhoven. The Sierra Leone Expert Panel Report states that he was 'responsible for the logistical aspects of many of the arms deals involved in arms trafficking between Liberia and Sierra Leone'. Van Kouwenhoven is on the board of the Liberian Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the government body assigned to monitor and document forest practices and exports. He is also the director of RTC, whose concessions are near the Guinean border, currently the scene of heavy fighting with anti-Taylor rebel forces.

"'Jacob Andersen, president of the Danish Environmental Group Nepenthes, said: "If DLH is serious about addressing social conflicts and environmental destruction, it should live up to its own environmental policies and its commitments as a corporate member of Amnesty International in Denmark. Clearly, DLH must stop dealing with Liberian companies immediately.'

"In the last decades, the destruction of the rainforest in West Africa has been extremely severe. The recent escalation of destructive logging in Liberia not only provides the Charles Taylor government with funds to support the rebels, it also jeopardizes the future ecological integrity of this critically threatened rainforest habitat.

"'By buying timber from companies implicated in the destruction of Liberia's forests and arms trafficking, DLH undermines the peace and security of all the innocent life - both people and animals- that depends on these forests,' concluded Filip Verbelen, Greenpeace forests campaigner for Africa."

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