Authorities are confirming that they are investigating a case of illegal logging but denied that BaiShanLin, as a company, is conducting any forestry activities.
During a press conference by the Board of Directors of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) yesterday, officials also said it was too early to confirm that trucks of the Chinese investor were found with illegal logs a few weeks ago.
The disclosures were made during a review of the board’s work last year.
On Sunday, Kaieteur News published a story on the disgraced Chinese company, BaiShanLin, being busted with logs that were illegally harvested from a concession called “Waico”, Upper Berbice River. The tags were linked to a forest group called Kwakwani Natural Resource Organisation, a community organisation.
BaiShanLin’s concessions were seized more than a year ago after the company failed to live up to its commitments, including building a value-adding processing plant on the Linden highway.
The company, half owned by the Chinese government, had spread itself thin, borrowing heavily to also invest in several failed ventures including housing, shipbuilding, a showroom at Providence and river barges. It even took over an unfinished hotel at Providence, East Bank Demerara. It still owes the Government on that building.
The scandal had placed the previous administration on the back foot, with the Coalition Government moving in and announcing that the forest concessions, the third largest in the country at the time, were being seized.
GFC’s Chairperson, Jocelyn Dow, disclosed that over 500 logs were cut illegally from the area that was once in control of BaiShanLin.
With Dow at the press conference were Commissioner James Singh and other board members.
Asked pointedly if BaiShanLin is still involved in forestry activities, the Chairperson noted that all the concessions in the name of BaiShanLin or related to them have been taken back.
This included the Berbice location, in the “Waico” area.
According to Commissioner Singh, as far as the GFC is aware, BaiShanLin is not engaged in any forestry activities.
He admitted that GFC has been investigating some illegal logging but made it clear it is not associated to the company, BaiShanLin.
Asked if trucks or equipment associated with what used to be BaiShanLin were the ones that were detained, the officials said that investigations were still ongoing and the details will be made known.
It was disclosed that GFC is aware of who the persons involved were as there was “chain of custody” evidence.
Dow said that the matter was being investigated even before the matter was reported by Kaieteur News.
The officials disclosed also that while it could have been that the trucks were BaiShanLin’s at one time, technically it could not belong as that company is not operating currently.
GFC officials explained that whenever caught, the products are confiscated and sold at market prices. When equipment is seized, there is a penalty.
When forest companies are found guilty, there are various stages from warning, penalties and fines.
The 2009 Forest Act has fines ranging from $250,000 to $1M and up to one year jail.
In the cases of forestry companies, the value is multiplied by 10 and this levied on that company.
On the issue of tags belonging to one group being used on another concession, GFC officials made it clear that it is tantamount to trespassing.
The focus on illegal logging would be serious for this Government as Guyana has a standing agreement with Norway to maintain its forests in exchange for a US$250M fee. Illegal logging and the maintenance of the forest cover as well as systems to trace logs to the origin tree stumps are big issues.
Already, Guyana is fighting a major issue with the United Kingdom. It has lost its greenheart market.
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