Nine Lithuanian companies have been accused of violating EU sanctions by presenting Russian and Belarusian plywood, pellets, and other timber products as originating from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The Lithuanian authorities have submitted evidence against these companies to prosecutors. This action was taken after an investigation by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which was published in December 2022. The Lithuanian State Consumer Rights Protection Authority (SCRPA) began its own investigation in early 2023 into 95 companies engaged in timber imports from non-EU countries after the OCCRP’s report. The SCRPA assessed that nine companies may have violated the sanctions.
The OCCRP’s investigation revealed that the companies had been falsifying documents to avoid the EU’s sanctions on Russian and Belarusian timber products. These sanctions were imposed due to concerns about the environmental impact of logging in these countries. The OCCRP found that the companies had been using false certificates of origin to claim that their products came from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which are not subject to the sanctions. The investigation also found that some of the companies had been involved in money laundering and tax evasion.
The Lithuanian authorities have not released the names of the companies involved in the investigation. However, they have stated that the evidence submitted to prosecutors includes documents showing that the companies had imported timber products from Russia and Belarus, despite the sanctions. The authorities have also stated that they have evidence of the companies’ involvement in the falsification of documents.
The Lithuanian government has been taking steps to crack down on the illegal trade in timber products. In 2022, it introduced new regulations requiring companies to provide detailed information about the origin of their timber products. The regulations also require companies to carry out due diligence checks to ensure that their suppliers are not involved in illegal logging or other illegal activities. The Lithuanian authorities have stated that they will continue to enforce these regulations and take action against companies that violate them.
The illegal trade in timber products is a major problem in many countries, particularly in developing countries where there is little regulation of the industry. The trade contributes to deforestation and environmental degradation, as well as to the displacement of indigenous communities. The EU has been taking steps to address the problem by imposing sanctions on countries that engage in illegal logging and by promoting sustainable forestry practices.
The Lithuanian authorities’ actions against the nine companies accused of violating sanctions are an important step in the fight against the illegal timber trade. They send a strong message to other companies that may be considering similar actions. The Lithuanian government’s commitment to enforcing regulations and cracking down on illegal activities in the timber sector is also encouraging. It is hoped that other countries will follow Lithuania’s lead in taking action to address this important issue.
In conclusion, the Lithuanian authorities have submitted evidence against nine Lithuanian companies that violated EU sanctions by falsely presenting Russian and Belarusian timber products as originating from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. This action was taken after an investigation by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The Lithuanian government’s commitment to enforcing regulations and cracking down on illegal activities in the timber sector is an important step in the fight against the illegal timber trade. It is hoped that other countries will follow Lithuania’s lead in taking action to address this important issue.