On September 4, 2019, the Environmental Investigation Agency welcomed two investigations recently started in Chana with respect to the illegal rosewood trade from Ghana to China.
The EIA announced plans to release data every month showing the value and volume of rosewood declared as imported to China from Ghana.
Ghanaian Government Investigations
On August 26, 2019, the Ghanaian Minister for Lands and Natural Resources announced the establishment of the “Committee to investigate Allegation of Corruption in Rosewood Trade in Ghana.” The Committee will thoroughly investigate the rosewood sector and propose remedial actions.
EIA also welcomed the decision of the Office of the Special Prosecutor to investigate ongoing corruption and collusion in the rosewood sector in Ghana. EIA said it can provide video, audio, and photographic evidence to the Special Prosecutor to aid the investigation.
EIA said it is willing to help the Committee and Special Prosecutor to examine what appears to be large scale and systemic misdeclaration of timber exported by Ghana. In this regard, in 2017, the United Nations Comtrade Database shows China reports the import of 146,122 cubic meters of timber for a value of US$91.3 million from Chana, while Ghana reported the export of only 14,627 cubic meters of timber for a value of US14.6 million to China.
EIA Report on the Illegal Rosewood Trade in Ghana
The decision by the Ghanaian government to start investigations results from the publication on July 30 by EIA of BAN-BOOZLED: How Corruption and Collusion Fuel Illegal Rosewood Trade in Ghana. The report finds powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers, with the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of the government, have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to conceal the illegal harvest, transport, export, and CITES-licensing of the timber.
The EIA report concludes fraudulent use of “salvage permits,” misdeclaration of timber species, use of “escorts” to deal with control points, forging of official documents, and retrospective issuance of CITES permits, are among the mechanisms used to conduct the illegal timber harvesting and trade.
According to the EIA report, Ghana is about to become the first African country and the second in the world, to issue Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) timber licenses under its Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU). This will enable timber with a FLEGT license to automatically be considered compliant with the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and allowed into the EU market without the due diligence usually required from importers.
Although Ghana has imposed a ban on the harvest of rosewood, intermittent suspensions of the ban have occurred allegedly to permit a few companies to “salvage” abandoned, already logged rosewood. In practice, the suspensions have allowed the illegal harvest and export to continue unabated.
EIA has used undercover investigators who have talked to traders, loggers and agents. EIA learned that the bribes paid to government officials enable the illegal transporting of rosewood through the issuance by local Forestry Commission offices of “conveyance certificates.”
According to the EIA report, Ghana is about to receive up to $50 million in payments for verified emission reductions, following the recent conclusion of an Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank under the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).
“1. A thorough investigation into corruption and collusion in the government, the Forest Commission and customs administration, and dismantling of the institutionalized illegal logging and trade networks;
- Deployment of strict enforcement cooperation between Chinese and Ghanaian authorities to implement the export ban and the CITES regulations, with the direct involvement of the CITES Secretariat;
- Regional adoption of a zero export quota for Pterocarpus erinaceus by West African range States until the CITES Appendix II requirements for legal and sustainable trade are met and publicly available;
- Immediate inclusion of effective public transparency mechanisms in the timber sector with the participation of Ghanaian civil society and monitoring by a body fully independent of the Forestry Commission.
The report also calls into question whether the EU and World Bank have sufficient accountability and compliance mechanisms to ensure Ghana meets the standards for which the EU is providing access to its market and for which the World Bank is about to provide financing and positive recognition to Ghana for supposedly conforming to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, forest carbon stock conservation, the sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (activities commonly referred to as REDD+).
The current issue of the IELR will have a more comprehensive article on developments in Ghana.