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Posts Tagged ‘PNG Forest Authority’

Juffa slams ‘another logging scam’

November 1, 2017 2 comments

Inspection of Ifane Agro Forestry Project

Update by Gary Juffa via FaceBook

As usual as has been the case with such dubious projects done without the approval of my Office and the Provincial Executive Committee.

This is the other Forestry scam besides SABL: FCA – FOREST CLEARING AUTHORITY.

Here public servants in provinces corroborate with PNGFA officials and dubious “landowners” to award permits via the PNGFA BOARD to log chunks of land of 500 hectares to logging pirates on the pretext of “tree growing” and “agricultural projects”.

Thing is.. these are the same plunderers who pay no taxes and have planted no trees or a single agricultural species of plant or animal life for the last 20 – 30 years…

My inspection in reaction to landowner petitions revealed massive breaches of various laws including environmental, trespassing, labour, transport, migration and others.

I took Administration officials who confessed giving approvals without bringing to my attention first. The officials were showed the various areas of concern that the company blatantly logged in breach of various laws and instructed to act immediately and impose penalties.

Interviewed some of the landowners who all admitted they are “partners”.. but have not been paid.. despite truckloads of high value logs leaving their land.

Meanwhile a dispute remains as to who are actual landowners.

Instructed PNGFA and Administration to immediately furnish documents for the so called project, instruct company to cease operations until they pay fines for all breaches and we have investigated their legality of operations, inform all clans to congregate end of November to deliberate on damages and trespassing and compile case to sue for damages.

See also – Yet another unlawful attempt to log Collingwood Bay

Yet another unlawful attempt to log Collingwood Bay

October 28, 2017 1 comment

Collingwood Bay. Photo Eric Wakker

Industry observer: “This is a complete nonsense… a cocoa project simply doesn’t need a massive hectarage, involving massive forestry clearance and equipment… It’s clearly another completely fraudulent exercise, made easier by the lack of penalties imposed upon the existing SABL perpetrators”

By Lester Seri

The National Forest Authority has granted permission for logging in the Collingwood Bay area of Northern Province despite the strong opposition of local people.

This is the third attempt at large-scale commercial logging in the area, the two previous attempts having been successfully defeated through the courts.

It is understood Northern Forest Products Ltd and Aisor Development Corporation have been issued a Forest Clearance Authority (FCA) to log Portions 136, 137 and up to Baruga lands  and to the Musa river.

According to the maps seen, its seems the entire Collingwood Bay area is to be consumed by logging under the pretext of planting cocoa.

Local people have been given no information about the proposed logging and have not seen a copy of the FCA proposal, or any approval granted by the National Forest Board or the Forest Minister.

Requests to the Forest Authority for these documents have gone unanswered and local people are totally in the dark as to how the authorities could give approval without even consulting local people and without ensuring their consent.

Meanwhile a company (allegedly involving a Malaysian and some Wanigela landowners) has been landing logging equipment at  Wanigela since April this year. The equipment is being stored at Naukwat village, a home to one of the people known to have been directly involved in the illegal Collingwood Bay SABL that was declared illegal by the National Court in June 2014.

Collingwood Bay landowners are at a loss to understand the continuing defiance by the National Forest Authority to grant licences for logging concessions in their area despite court rulings after court ruling in favour of the landowners that span nearly 30 years.

There are rumours that the Provincial Government and the Administration are in support of a cocoa project in Collingwood Bay, and it is alleged that the new FCA and movement of logging machineries have their approval?

Questions asked are:

  1. Why have the landowners not been officially made aware of this government sanctioned cocoa project?
  2. Why does the cocoa planting require bulldozers, jinkers and graders, when the landowners need only knives, spades and axes to plant cocoa.

The Baruga landowners have already put up tabu markings stopping anybody moving into their private land.

The National Forest Authority has miserably failed many landowning communities’ in Papua New Guinea over the years and continues to do so in Collingwood Bay through the illegal SABL and now this suspect FCA.

The Collingwood Bay people have held community consultation forums since 2014 and have unanimously agreed to pursuing their own Community Conservation Initiative. This received final community approval in April 2017, and funding support has been secured.

It seems the National Forest Authority is intent on deliberately truncating / DESTROYING the Communities’ Conservation Initiative over 650,000 hectares of land by encouraging logging without the consent of the local people.

I AM OF THE STRONG VIEW THAT IT IS TIME FOR THE ENTIRE COLLINGWOOD BAY COMMUNITIES’ TO CONVERGE AT WANIGELA AND DEMAND AN EXPLANATION FROM THOSE CONCERNED, THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT AND THE ADMINISTRATION, AND THE RESPECTIVE FORESTRY OFFICES IN PORT MORESBY AND POPONDETTA.

Konoagil logging companies bankrupt

December 30, 2016 4 comments

bankruptThe two companies engaged by New Ireland businessman Walter Schnaubelt to log the Konoagil district of New Ireland were effectively bankrupt at the end of 2015 when they negotiated their logging contracts. Together the two companies were almost K3 million in the red. This is revealed in financial documents filed with the Investment Promotion Authority in Port Moresby.

The two Malaysian owned companies, Millionplus Corporation and Islands Forest Limited are owned by Tiing Siu HAH and Kie Yii LING. In total they have been granted permits and licences to log up to 135,000 hectares of forest in southern New Ireland. The logging operations are illegal because of a lack of informed consent from local people, a flawed landowner identification process and the false promises and inducements used to get some people to accept the logging.

Schnaubelt has promised local forest owners the companies will establish 35,000 hectares of oil palm and build an international standard hospital, nursing school, bridges, schools and main roads in the district, but according to IPA records, both companies were bankrupt at the end of 2015 and could not meet the ‘Solvency Test’.

millionplus-insolvent

islands-forest-insolvent

The Konoagil logging operations have been clouded in controversy, with local people stating they have not given their informed consent, that landowner identification processes were rushed and incomplete and they were forced to sign documents that were never fully explained. Now they must face the fact their forests are being destroyed by two companies that were heavily in debt when they were engaged.

According to its annual return, at the end of 2015, Millionplus Limited was over K2.5 million in the red with liabilities of K3,814,616 and assets of just K1,215,122:

millionplus-debts

Islands Forests’ position was marginally better – it was only K293,668 in the red, with assets of K3,137,907 and liabilities of K3,431,575:

islands-debts

The PNG Forest Authority and National Forest Board need to answer for how such companies can be given licences and permits for logging operations and Walter Schnaubelt needs to explain to the people of New Ireland why their forests have been handed over to two bankrupt companies and who will fund all the expensive infrastructure he has promised.

Konoagil Oil Palm Project just another illegal logging scam

December 28, 2016 11 comments
Walter Schnaubelt listens as local people talk about their greviances

Walter Schnaubelt is the man behind the illegal logging of southern New Ireland

Thirty years on from the Barnett Commission of Inquiry that exposed widespread corruption in the logging industry, the people of New Ireland are still falling victim to illegal logging operations set up without the informed consent of ordinary people.

Konoagil district, New Ireland

Konoagil district, New Ireland

From New Hanover in the north right down to Lak in the south, New Ireland is awash with illegal logging operations, the latest being the so-called Konoagil Oil Palm Project, set up by Walter Schnaubelt, the intending National Alliance candidate for Namatanai.

According to the media reports on the project launch in April, the logging will cover an area of 120,000 hectares and will involve the establishment of 35,000 hectares of oil palm and an “international hospital and school, nurse training centre and banking facilities for the local people”.

However, ever since the project launch landowners have been raising their objections – even presenting a petition to the Forest Minister. The local people say there has been no proper awareness and consultation over the occupation of their land and destruction of their forests.

Forest Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, has failed to investigate claims the logging permits were bulldozed through his department

Forest Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, has failed to investigate landholders claims the logging permits were bulldozed through his department

In July, Schnaubelt was on-hand as CEO of Konoagil Agri Development Ltd, one of the companies he has set up to orchestrate the project, to try and reassure locals and the media all proper processes have been followed – but the truth is the project has been bulldozed through every stage of the legal process by Schnaubelt and his lackeys.

It was Schnaubelt who was behind the incorporation of land groups in highly suspicious circumstances. Local people say some were even forced to complete and sign the registrations while clan boundaries were done in haste and no genealogy studies were ever completed. Proper verification of ILG formation process and issuing of certificates was never done by the Department of Lands.

Schnaubelt then used the ILG certificates to induce two Malaysian owned logging companies, Millionplus Corporation and Islands Forest to move into the area and start logging.

Landowners say they have never been given proper information on project impacts and benefits – including the terms and conditions on which KADL claims to hold 20% of the equity in the business on behalf of the landowners. The landowners say no documentation has ever been shared with them.

Tomorrow we will present the evidence of how Walter Schnaubelt has set up a string of companies to try and hide his involvement as the orchestrator of the whole logging scam. We will also present documentary evidence of how Schnaubelt bulldozed the project through the PNG Forest Authority without the consent of local landholders – and scandalous details on the finances of the Malaysian logging companies involved.

Forest Minister, Tomuriesa, a complete hypocrite over the SABL land grab and illegal logging

November 15, 2016 Leave a comment
The Forest Minister sitting comfortably on his trip home from Paris

Forest Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, is so full of bullshit…

The audacity, bare faced cheek and hypocrisy from Forest Minister Douglas Tomuriesa is just jaw dropping!

This is a man who for three years has vehemently denied any suggestion of illegal logging in PNG, and has wholly heartedly endorsed the destructive logging operations in SABL lease areas that have seen timber worth more then US$400 million stolen from customary landowners and exported to China.

That logging in SABL areas is still continuing today, with Tomuriesa’s seal of approval, yet he tells Parliament:

  • ‘The government decision to cancel the leases is commendable’
  • ‘The leases should ‘never have happened’
  • ‘Due diligence must be done before any approval can be granted’
  • ‘Our people’s rights and our children’s future must be protected’

Most staggering of all, Tomuriesa says:

“The land belongs to our people. It must remain with our people, the forest belongs to our people and it must not be taken away from them”

So Minister, please tell us why you have allowed over 4 million cubic meters of logs to be stolen from SABL lease areas without the informed consent of local people but under the guise of approvals granted by you and your Department. 

Why are you STILL allowing the logging to continue when you say our people’s rights must be protected!

By HELEN TARAWA, The National (owned by Rimbunan Hijau), November 11, 2016
The Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL) was designed to fail and the Government’s decision to cancel it is commendable, Forest Minister Douglas Tomuriesa said.
Tomuriesa told Parliament last week that SABL was designed for disaster and the Government had taken a corrective measure, with land going back to the people.
“The investors can now go back and renegotiate proper deals with our people,” he said.
“We should not allow this to happen again, such practice that is approved by this Parliament or by bureaucrats should never have happened.
“I want to commend the prime minister and his Cabinet for looking at the Commission of Inquiry report and eventually cancelling the SABL.
“Due diligence must be done before any approval can be granted; as leaders we allowed this to happen.
“We have to look at any similar controversial acts like the SABL that have been approved in the past and we must stop them now.
“Our people’s rights and our children’s future must be protected by this parliament and not allow foreigners come and dictate to us.
“The land belongs to our people. It must remain with our people, the forest belongs to our people and it must not be taken away from them.
“Our people were given rubbish, today they have the power in their hands to sit back and negotiate.
“I would like to acknowledge all parliament members for your support in making sure that we fix this issue once and for all.
“This SABL must not happen again.
“It there are other initiatives like this, we must stop. We must not sell the birthrights of our people to foreigners.”

Run Fu 2 allowed to leave for China with cargo of illegal timber

October 17, 2016 1 comment

run-fu-2-b

The Panama registered bulk carrier, Run Fu 2 has been allowed to sail from Wewak with a cargo of illegally felled timber from the Turubu SABL. The ship is currently sailing towards China with its illegal cargo.

The ship was allowed to leave PNG despite Customs, Police, PNG Forest Authority and SGS all being aware the logs it was loading have been declared illegal by both the National and Supreme Courts.

The Supreme Court decision on 31 August, confirmed an earlier 2014, National Court decision, that the SABL lease over Portion 144C is null and void and all logging and oil palm operations are illegal. But despite the court decisions, the logging is still continuing right under the nose of the PNG authorities and yet another ship has now arrived and is loading logs. In total more logs worth more than $50 million have been exported from the illegal Turubu SABL area.

As we revealed last week, the PNG Forest Authority has seemingly decided it will ignore the court rulings – but surely SGS, the police and PNG Customs can’t all be on on the conspiracy? We now wait to see if they will allow the next ship to leave PNG waters with its illegal cargo!

PNGFA and logging company lawyers conspiring to ignore court orders?

October 11, 2016 1 comment

pngfa-letter-turubu

The PNG Forest Authority and lawyers representing foreign companies involved in logging operations in the Turubu area of the Sepik have apparently decided they can ignore National and Supreme Court orders.

In the above letter, dated 5 September 2016, the Acting Managing Director of the Forest Authority, Goodwill Amos references a meeting in which lawyers, loggers and the PNGFA “established and agreed” a Court decision “to nullify the the SABL over Portion 144C does not affect in anyway the FCA [Forest Clearance Authority] and related activities”.

This directly contradicts the orders of both the National and Supreme Courts.

On 4 July 2014, Justice Gavara-Nanu in the National Court declared the SABL over Portion 144C (Turubu) null and void and ordered:

“Any other related actions or projects undertaken or done either pursuant to or in relation to the SABL, such as logging agreements and or planting of oil palm in the SABL area are also declared illegal and null and void”.

On 31 August 2016, a three Judge bench of the Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the National Court:

the decision of his Honour Gavara-Nanu is confirmed as are the findings
and orders he has made

The lawyers representing the loggers, Wewak Agriculture Development Limited and Sepik Oil Palm Plantation Limited, in the Supreme Court were Kuman Lawyers. The very same lawyers, the Acting MD says he met with two days after the Supreme Court decision, on 2 September, when it was decided they could all  IGNORE the court order and allow logging to continue.

What makes the PNGFA position even more untenable is that they have been on notice since 2015 that at least one third of the logging under the FCA is occurring outside the SABL boundary – as exposed in satellite analysis published by Global Witness:

turubu-logging

Global Witness also reports that the value of the timber taken from the Turubu SABL area is in excess of $50 million.

To add further insult, Goodwill Amos ends his letter by advising the lawyers they should draft a petition to be signed by landowners aggrieved by the decisions of the National and Supreme Courts that should then be handed to government agencies, presumably to pressure the said agencies not to intervene against the illegal SABL and associated activities.

This is the man supposedly in charge of ensuring the responsible, sustainable and LEGAL use of our forests advising lawyers for logging companies how to organise their clients to get government agencies to ignore the law!!!

Run Fu 2 about to run to Shanghai with a cargo of illegal timber

September 29, 2016 1 comment

run-fu-2-b

The Panama registered bulk carrier, Run Fu 2 is currently loading illegally felled timber from the Turubu SABL in East Sepik and is ready to run to Shanghai with its illegal cargo.

On 31 August, the Supreme Court declared the SABL over Portion 144C null and void and said all logging and oil palm operations are illegal.

But the logging is still continuing right under the nose of the PNG Forestry Authority and on 6 September the Run Fu 2 arrived and started loading logs.

Will the Forest Authority, SGS and PNG Customs allow the Run Fu 2 to leave PNG waters with its illegal cargo?

And if the ship does leave, will the police investigate all those involved in facilitating this theft of valuable timber?

Breaking the Grip of Rimbunan Hijau over Papua New Guinea

April 21, 2016 2 comments

RH boycott sticker

By Frederic Mousseau*, IPS news

James Sze Yuan Lau and Ivan Su Chiu Lu must be extremely busy men. Together, they are listed as directors of some 30 companies involved in various activities and services related to logging or agribusiness in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The former is the managing director of Rimbunan Hijau (RH) PNG and son-in-law of RH’s founder Tiong Hiew King; the latter is executive director of RH PNG Ltd.. All but two of these 30 companies have the same registered address at 479 Kennedy Road, in the national capital, Port Moresby–the headquarter of the RH group in the country.

Frederic Mousseau

Frederic Mousseau

How the group – the largest logging operator in PNG – manages to operate at a loss for so many years, and yet still remains in business? If it were unprofitable to log and export timber from PNG, why would these companies continue their operations? These are some of the critical questions raised in a report released in February 2016, The Great Timber Heist: The Logging Industry in Papua New Guinea, by the Oakland Institute. The report exposed massive tax evasion and financial misreporting by foreign logging companies, allegedly resulting in non-payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

Their ability to magically fit into a relatively small office space on Kennedy Road is not the only puzzling fact about the subsidiaries of the Malaysian group, Rimbunan Hijau. Out of the 30 above mentioned companies, 16 subsidiaries that are directly involved in logging or agribusiness have one other thing in common. According to their financial records , they don’t make a profit. Most of them have been working at a loss for over a decade. During the 12 years for which financial records were available to the Oakland Institute’s researchers, all together, the subsidiaries declared an average loss of about US$ 9 million every year.

Recovering tax revenue would be certainly welcomed by PNG given the acute budget crisis the country has been facing in recent months. Yet, it is unclear whether the government of PNG will decide to take action following these revelations. After all, despite the promises made by the Prime Minister, still no action has been taken two and a half years after the damning report on recent land leases, produced by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), which identified all sorts of malpractices and irregularities and concluded that most leases were illegal.

A first step for any government would be to start monitoring the declared sale prices of exported timber. PNG prices are much lower than those of other exporters of tropical timber (nearly 50% cheaper in 2014), which suggests that logging companies undervalue their exports and therefore their profits. But the recent statements by the Forest Minister in denial of the findings of the report, and given the well-documented deficiencies of the PNG Forest Authority, there is little hope of decisive action by this agency.

Another level of action is the enforcement of tax compliance by the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC), the government agency in charge of tax collection. However, although many RH companies are conveniently located at the same address, it may prove difficult for tax auditors to ascertain the extent of their wrongdoings. The Group has been built as a complex and opaque financial structure: almost all RH holding companies–the parent companies of those operating in PNG–are located in tax havens, primarily the British Virgin Islands, known for facilitating illicit financial flows.

Moreover, the use of multiple subsidiaries in logging operations makes auditing even more complex to conduct. For instance, in one single project in West Pomio, Gilford Ltd.’s records indicate financial transactions with 16 other RH subsidiary companies. This interrelation facilitates transfer pricing as companies of the same group can charge each other an artificially high price for goods, equipment, and services, thereby increasing the sister company’s operational expenses, and artificially reducing their profits. This interrelation would require investigators to not just focus on individual logging companies but to extend their audits to the larger RH Group. But who would they go after?

RH is controlled by Tiong Hiew King, one of Malaysia’s richest men. Although logging is the core business of the group – ‘Rimbunan Hijau’ ironically means ‘forever green’ in Malay, his empire covers a multitude of sectors, and all continents from fisheries in New Zealand, timber in Siberia, to Chinese speaking newspapers in California. RH’s grip over PNG goes far beyond the forests, as it is present across all sectors of the economy. The company’s most recent investment in the capital Port Moresby is a project known as Vision City, which contains the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Islands region and is expected to be expanded to include an office tower block, service apartments, a hotel and convention centre. It also owns the National, the largest of the two daily newspapers in PNG, an airline, Tropicair, as well as shipping and logistics companies.

Whereas the group appears as PNG’s superpower, citizens are left powerless. As documented in 2013 Oakland Institute’s report and film, logging in PNG hides a multilayered tragedy of daylight robbery, whereby local communities are being deprived of their resources and their rights, with the complicity of their own government. RH has often been accused in the past of connections within the political elite in the country and of involvement in corruption and violence in relation to its logging operations. In a number of occasions, local police forces have been used to intimidate and arrest local landowners opposed to logging and land grabbing by RH subsidiaries.

A single corporate group, RH, thus materializes the betrayal of the unique constitutional protections that PNG citizens are supposed to enjoy. The 1975 Constitution guaranteed people’s land rights and upheld national sovereignty, self-reliance, and the preservation of natural resources as key principles for the country. It called on the State “to control major enterprises engaged in the exploitation of natural resources.” Ironically, today a major enterprise has turned the statement around and appears to be controlling the state and the country’s natural resources. Will Papua New Guineans eventually decide to put the things back in place?

*Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute, coordinated the research for the Institute’s agroeocology project.

Forest Minister fails to discredit critical analysis

April 21, 2016 Leave a comment

timber heistBy ACT NOW!

The Forest Minister has taken out full page adverts in the media this month [see below] trying to refute allegations of illegal logging and financial misreporting by the logging industry. But his lengthy explanations fail to answer the central allegations and many of his admissions actually add weight to the arguments he is trying to dispute!

The Minister complains that ‘despite the assurances of the PNGFA that all logging is conducted within the law, various interest groups continue to use the issue of illegal logging for their own purposes’. What he fails to mention is that those ‘interest groups’ include bodies like the International Tropical Timber Organisation and the World Bank who were invited to do their studies by the PNG government and concluded the logging was unsustainabe and illegal. What possible motive could such organisations have for publishing false analysis?

The Minister claims ‘since 1994 the Government has engaged SGS to monitor the export of logs to prevent under-valuing and transfer-pricing’, which is completely untrue. SGS counts the logs and checks the export duty paid, it does not check or authenticate the declared log prices – as the Minister later implicitly admits!

The Minister says ‘SGS also confirms all the logs are sourced from legally approved and valid timber concessions‘ – which is completely misleading. SGS merely checks there is a logging permit or licence, it carries out no checks to see if that permit or licence was validly issued or is legal.

The Minister claims Oakland Institute ‘have deliberately used the ITTO composite price for tropical logs to distort the facts’ but then he admits PNGFA does not have any direct comparison figures to challenge the OI analysis, accepts such figures “would indeed be very useful” and then tries to rely on international export prices for plantation teak logs to disprove the OI analysis when such log exports “from PNG are of very insignificant volumes” and “constitutes a very minuscule proportion of PNG’s total log export volume”.  The Minister says the OI log price comparison is ‘rather simplistic’ but admits the  PNGFA does not have any data to allow it to do a better job!

The Minister further claims the OI report “is inept and inaccurate” but:

  1. Admits, since 2014 PNG is the biggest exporter of unprocessed tropical logs in the world
  2. Admits, the Forest Authority has approved logging in 785,000 hectares of land acquired under SABL
  3. Admits, cumulatively, some 11 million hectares of land have been industrially logged and a further 5 million hectares of forest is currently under active logging.
  4. Does not deny almost all logging operations and all log exports are driven by foreign owned companies.
  5. Does not deny the logging industry declares no profits year after and year and does not pay any corporate taxes.
  6. Does not deny the total land area leased under SABL is over 5 million hectares.
  7. Does not deny PNG Forest Products (a plantation based timber company) is the only forestry company paying corporate taxes
  8. Does not deny PNGFA struggles to monitor and verify log export prices and, admits, if given more resources, it would more closely monitor international prices.
  9. Implicitly admits transfer pricing is going on and says the log export tax was specifically imposed to counter transfer pricing!

PNGFA statement 5 April 2016 1

PNGFA statement 5 April 2016 2