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AUGUST 1, 2002
9:58 AM
CONTACT:  Greenpeace USA
Corporate Scandals Continue: Timber Industry Uses Legal System for Illegal Gains
Greenpeace Calls Lawsuit against U.S. Government Unfounded and Unethical
WASHINGTON - August 1 - The timber industry has announced it's suing the U.S. government to force the release of 16 shipments of Brazilian mahogany that Greenpeace, the Brazilian government and the U.S. Department of Interior have deemed either illegal or under investigation. The plaintiffs claim that they had all of the necessary paper work, including valid export permits issued by the Brazilian government. Greenpeace, however, uncovered evidence that these permits' validity is highly questionable and that the mahogany itself was illegally extracted following a ban on all mahogany exports put in place by Brazil in October of 2001.

"The timber industry is abusing the legal system for illegal gains," said Scott Paul, Greenpeace Forest Campaign Coordinator. "President Bush announced that the U.S. was going to become a leader in combating illegal logging and this lawsuit undermines any efforts to fight the outbreak of illegal logging that is destroying ancient forests around the world."

Before issuing a permit for timber export, the Convention that Oversees Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which oversees endangered mahogany, requires each country's designated agency be satisfied that the product was legally harvested. In the case of these shipments, the designated agency was Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA. IBAMA had shutdown the country's mahogany trade in October, 2001 citing widespread corruption and illegalities. According to CITES, only IBAMA, not the courts or even the president of the country has the authority to issue these permits.

As reported in the news earlier this year, Greenpeace uncovered evidence that mahogany shipments were continuing into the United States following Brazil's ban. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife sought clarification from Brazil about the legal status of the shipments mentioned in this lawsuit. So far the Brazilian government has requested that the United States continue to hold the mahogany and Greenpeace called for its return to Brazil to aid the government's efforts to track and combat illegal logging.

"If these plaintiffs continue with this ill-advised lawsuit, it will just continue to shake people's confidence in the ethics of U.S. corporations," continued Paul. "These companies have an opportunity to join President Bush's initiative to combat illegal logging and to be part of the solution - instead of fueling the problem."

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