Mozambique: Illegal logging costs stateUS$200 million a year
The Mozambican authorities have arrested a Chinese citizen in connection with the illegal export from the northern port of Pemba of 82 containers full of unprocessed logs.
The ship carrying the containers set off illegally from Pemba, and is now in international waters heading for China.
The Chinese citizen, Feng Chang, has been in police custody since Monday, following an arrest warrant issued by the Cabo Delgado provincial attorney’s office.
The provincial Chief Attorney, Octavio Zilo, cited in Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, has not ruled out the involvement of public officials, such as customs and forestry staff, in the illegal export.
“There is very strong evidence that the smuggled timber is the same as the timber seized in August last year in the port of Pemba, when a Chinese company attempted to export 2,000 cubic metres of timber illegally,” Zilo said.
After the August smuggling attempt was foiled, thanks to an anonymous tip-off, the Cabo Delgado provincial court took the extraordinary decision to entrust the Chinese company, Ming Zhou, with custody of the assets.
Feng Chang was supposed to look after the 2,000 cubic metres of timber, and present it to the authorities when requested.
“Strangely enough, we received the information that the timber has been removed and exported illegally”, said Zilo. “The measure we took immediately was to arrest the accused”.
Currently, Feng Chang is the only person accused in the case. He faces charges of illegally removing the timber, and of forging documents. Zilo said that Feng is crucial for explaining all the circumstances of the ship’s departure, and how many other people were involved.
He added that high level contacts are under way in order to intercept the cargo ship and bring it back to Pemba. “We believe that within the next few days the shipment will have been brought back”, he said.