Recently, Department of Homeland Security agents searched the offices of Global Plywood & Lumber Inc., a wood importer based in California suspected of importing illegally harvested timber from the Amazon without proper permits. According to a Reuters article, agents are investigating whether the privately held company violated Peruvian and U.S. law, although no charges had been filed as of June 8. Manager at Global Plywood, Kenneth Peabody, declined to comment on a warrant filed on June 6 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, and executed the following day.
In recent years, the U.S. government has worked to curb logging of rare forest species. Most recently, the U.S. Dept. of Justice probed into the import of timber illegally logged in far eastern Russia, where many endangered forest species exist. This investigation resulted in Lumber Liquidators agreeing to pay over $13 million in forfeitures and criminal fines.
In 1990, a conservation law known as the Lacey Act was passed; this law was amended in 2008 and bans commerce in specific plants and plant products and includes those manufactured from illegally logged woods. According to reports, in 2007 Global Plywood started importing wood products from Peru. In 2010, Global Plywood began receiving shipments from Inversiones La Oroza, a Peruvian exporting firm. It was found later that year that La Oroza had been illegally cutting cedar following an investigation by the Peruvian Forest Service.
Over a three-year time span between 2012 and 2015, wood valued at more than $3.6 million was imported from La Oroza by Global Plywood, according to an affidavit filed with the search warrant. It is believed that both La Oroza and Global Plywood violated the Lacey Act.
Agents began investigating Global Plywood after U.S. authorities were contacted by Peruvian Customs and Forest Service officials last September regarding a “massive” shipment of wood aboard the Yacu Kallpa, a vessel en route to the Port of Houston. The majority of the wood aboard the ship was from La Oroza, on its way to Global Plywood, more than 90% of the wood illegally harvested in Peru according to Peruvian authorities.
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