MANAUS, BRAZIL - The Brazilian Federal Police carried out today a full-size operation in Mato Grosso which resulted in the dismantling of a gang responsible for defrauding logging authorisations in the State for 14 years. The Brazilian Justice issued warrants of arrest for 89 people - including IBAMA (the Brazilian Environmental Agency) agents and loggers, who are responsible for 1,9 million cubic meters of timber illegally exploited in the Amazon. This volume could be loaded into 76,000 trucks, which would cover the distance between Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia.
During the investigations, 283 Forest Management Plans were suspended and another 36 were cancelled for indefinitely. Also, 431 "ghost logging companies" were exposed all over the Mato Grosso State. The operation also exposed falsification on ATPFs (Authorization of Forest Products Transport), the "laundry" of authorisations in order to be used again and field inspection frauds. This operation involving 450 Federal Police agents and 31 IBAMA agents is the largest ever carried out by the Federal Police in the Brazilian Amazon.
"It is important to stress that the arrests of loggers and IBAMA agents today in Mato Grosso are not isolated cases. The Federal Police and IBAMA should extend this kind of investigation for other Amazon States, such as Para and Rondonia, where deforestation and illegal logging are rampant," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon Campaign Coordinator.
The approval of the Project of Law 4776/05, which regulates the concession of forest areas in public lands for management, has the potential to represent an important step to secure the control of the Amazon wealthy by the Federal Government. However, the new law will only succeeded if the environmental agencies responsible for monitoring and control, such as IBAMA, were depurate of those involved in fraud and corruption.
"The real implementation will only be possible with law enforcement and governance in the Amazon. Today's operation in Mato Grosso shows the real risks involving forest concessions," said Adario. "Also, the federal agencies such as IBAMA, Federal Police and INCRA (the National Institute of Colonisation and Land Reform) need to be strengthened and prepared to fight illegal logging, land grabbing (grilagem), deforestation and crimes against human rights."
A recent Greenpeace survey shows that more than 72% of the timber exploited in the Amazon is illegal. Also, 74% of the total deforestation in 2004 had no authorisation. On 18 May, the Federal Government announced the annual rate of Amazon deforestation for the period August 2003-August 2004: 26,130 square kilometres, the second largest in Brazilian history. The state of Mato Grosso is responsible for 48% of the total deforestation in the Amazon.
IBAMA agent Randolf Zachow was also arrested by the Federal Police operation. Greenpeace exposed Zachow in 2001 due his attempts to authorise the release of illegal Brazilian mahogany that was seized in U.S ports. At the time, Zachow sent letter to the US Government without the knowledge of his superiors. Greenpeace obtained a copy of the letter and exposed the case to the Brazilian and North-American authorities, to stop mahogany release.