Illegal Rosewood trade: Dr. Apaak petitions SP to investigate bribery & corruption at FC

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The Member of Parliament for Builsa South, Dr. Clement Apaak, has petitioned the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption at forestry commission fuelling the illegal harvesting and export of rosewood timber.

The legislator who has constantly led campaigns against the illegal harvesting of rosewood, in his petition made reference to the latest investigative report by Washington DC-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), alleging that the Forestry Commission is still issuing permits to members of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) to export rosewood despite a ban.

The report claims undercover investigators discovered that powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country through “the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government.”

“They have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport, export, and CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species]- licensing of the timber,” the report said.

According to the report, the illegal trade had continued through the “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.”

EIA says its investigators discovered that rosewood species were exported from the country to China as recently as June 18, 2019.

According to a press statement accompanying the report issued by Head of Communications at EIA-US, Lindsay Moran, senior officials of the Forestry Commission are complicit in the illegal trade.

“Traffickers told EIA investigators that officials from the Forestry Commission, at the local, regional and the national level are complicit of the scheme. A trafficker mentioned that [an official] of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission and responsible for signing CITES export permits, even receives a percentage of the value of the rosewood exported,” it claimed.

“Indeed, EIA also discovered a CITES permit for a rosewood shipment, signed by [the official], that was issued after the timber was unloaded in the Chinese port of Ningbo (Zhejiang Province), in flagrant violation of the international Convention,” the statement said.

Making reference to the report, Dr. Clement Apaak noted that these alleged crimes were made public even before the EIA released its findings.

‘’These acts of crime are things we all have fore knowledge of even before this report was issued. In my own constituency, such illegal felling of rosewood fueled by bribery and corruption of public officials have been ongoing for several years unabated even before this EIA investigative report. I will be ready to testify personally to your investigators on what I know about some of these acts,’’ his ppetiton read.

The MP has also pledged to avail and support the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu with the necessary support to investigate the matter.

‘’I will also be ready to work with you to get officials from the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA) to provide your good office all the necessary support you will need to properly investigate the allegations. EIA is a reputable organization with an undented track record when it comes to investigating environmental crime. They are referred to as the FBI of environmental crime and have conducted similar investigations in Nigeria, Guinea Bissau and several other countries. I am confident that if your good office pursues the revelations made by the undercover investigators to the latter, we will be able to get to the bottom of this illegal trade and bring the perpetrators to book to save our environment and protect the lives of our people,’’ The petition read.

Dr. Apaak wants the Special Prosecutor to investigate . Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission; Any other officials of the Forestry Commission; Members of the New Patriotic Party; Rosewood traffickers 
and Port officials and any related persons or institutions mentioned in the report

‘’I am humbly writing to invoke your jurisdiction to investigate the following persons and institutions mentioned in the report over allegations of bribery and corruption leveled against them so you can either prosecute them if found culpable or clear them.’’

Below is the full petition:


13th August 2019
The Hon. Martin Amidu,
Office of Special Prosecutor, 
Accra

Dear Sir,

PETITION TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS OF BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION AT FORESTRY COMMISSION FUELLING THE ILLEGAL HARVESTING AND EXPORT OF ROSEWOOD TIMBER

1) On 30th July 2019, an internationally reputable not for profit institution, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) based in Washington DC, USA, published a damning report after several months of undercover investigation titled: “Ban-Boozled: How corruption and collusion fuel illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.” I have attached a copy of the report.

2) According to this official report, despite government ban on harvesting, transportation and export of rosewood which has been in place since 2012 and recently renewed on 12th March 2019 by the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Kwaku Asomah Kyeremeh, the illegal trade has been ongoing. Analysis by EIA shows since 2012, over 540,000 tons of rosewood – the equivalent of 23,478 twenty-foot containers or approximately 6 million trees – have been illegally harvested and exported to China.

3) Undercover investigations by EIA revealed that powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country through the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government. The investigation revealed that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) members and their compatriots in government “have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport, export, and illegal licensing of the timber.”

4) The report said these NPP members and their cronies are using a number of tactics to get the illegal trade going including; “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 permits.”

5) The investigators found that Mr. Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission even allegedly receives a percentage of the value of the rosewood exported illegally. He was allegedly being bribed to sign export permits illegally. EIA published a video of one of the rosewood traffickers confessing to bribing the wildlife boss. A copy of the video is attached.

6) The investigators found that “conveyance certificate,” from local Forestry Commission offices without which the rosewood cannot be transported from forests to the harbour are still being issued illegally despite the ban when bribes of up to 3,000 Ghana cedis is paid commission officials. The report revealed that as recently as 15th May 2019, several months after the ban, forestry commission officials allegedly received financial inducements to sign an export permit. A copy of the permit is contained in the report.

7) The report also pointed out that some of the traffickers hire well-connected personnel who guarantee the secure movement of rosewood logs from the logging site to Tema port to escort the rosewoods. The report said; “these groups are connected to ministers and officials in the timber business and are well aware of whom to pay along the road.” It also said once the logs arrive in Tema port, shipping agents help obtain – or forge – all documents required to clear customs.”

8) In February 2019, a Joy News documentary produced by Joseph Opoku Gakpo uncovered similar evidence that despite the ban on rosewood, there’s been the continuous felling of the valuable species fueled by acts of corruption and bribery as confirmed in the documentary by even District Security officials in my constituency. I have attached a copy of the Joy News documentary.

Request 
9) The Office of Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959) passed by my colleagues and I in parliament says your office is “a specialised agency to investigate specific cases of corruption involving public officers, and political office holders in the performance of their functions as well as individuals in the private sector implicated in the commission of corruption and prosecute these offences on the authority of the Attorney-General.”

10) I am humbly writing to invoke your jurisdiction to investigate the following persons and institutions mentioned in the report over allegations of bribery and corruption leveled against them so you can either prosecute them if found culpable or clear them. 
a. Mr. Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission
b. Any other officials of the Forestry Commission 
c. Members of the New Patriotic Party 
d. Rosewood traffickers 
e. Port officials and any related persons or institutions mentioned in the report

11) These acts of crime are things we all have fore knowledge of even before this report was issued. In my own constituency, such illegal felling of rosewood fueled by bribery and corruption of public officials have been ongoing for several years unabated even before this EIA investigative report. I will be ready to testify personally to your investigators on what I know about some of these acts.

12) I will also be ready to work with you to get officials from the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA) to provide your good office all the necessary support you will need to properly investigate the allegations. EIA is a reputable organization with an undented track record when it comes to investigating environmental crime. They are referred to as the FBI of environmental crime and have conducted similar investigations in Nigeria, Guinea Bissau and several other countries. I am confident that if your good office pursues the revelations made by the undercover investigators to the latter, we will be able to get to the bottom of this illegal trade and bring the perpetrators to book to save our environment and protect the lives of our people.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Clement Apaak (Hon)
MP for Builsa South 
Parliament House, Accra, Ghana
0200117620 and email: caapaak@gmail.com

Attachments (on accompanying pen-drive)
1. Report: “Ban-Boozled: How corruption and collusion fuel illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.”
2. Video version of the report: “Ban-Boozled: How corruption and collusion fuel illegal rosewood trade in Ghana.” 
3. Video of Joy News report, “KILLING OUR ROSES.”

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