General

Rosewood plunder continues undeterred, despite Moratorium

Almost a year ago, Minister of Forestry, Lisell Alamilla, signed a Moratorium banning all harvesting of Rosewood from Belizean jungles, and, following a sizable find in January, she burned several flitches of the precious wood.

Alamilla has earned a few choice nicknames since the controversial burning, but she has stood her ground where the wanton harvesting of the precious wood is concerned.  Yet it appears that the symbolic destruction was nothing more than just that because in an interview with reporters, she admitted:

“We continue to find Rosewood. There are regular reports. We’re confiscating 20, 30 flitches at a time, so the amount of Rosewood that we have on our hands is increasing almost on a weekly basis and we definitely have to put something to Cabinet for them to consider,  so that decisions won’t lie with just my Ministry.”

The Forest Department still has two container loads of illegally harvested wood on its compound awaiting the completion of investigations.

Wilbur Sabido, Chief Forest Officer, said that  in one of the containers, confiscated in January from the Port compound, were found  Zericote “in round or log form.  That is against the law, essentially. Zericote is a protected species; It can only be exported as a value -added product. So in that particular instance we seized the wood in the container. The exporter is a known exporter to us. He goes by the name of Anita Lou based originally out of Roaring Creek and now operating out of Orange Walk.”

In the other case, two containers found in the yard at Belize Engineering Limited contained roughly 15,000 board feet of rosewood.  Sabido said that the exporter “goes by the name of Kambo Kin. Two persons  registered that particular company. I can only recall the name of one; it’s Pererra.

In this particular instance we have only managed to make contact through the broker, Mr. Raul Cawich. It’s through him and with the DPP we are working to see how we can make contact with the actual owner of the material.”

As for a third load confiscated in Benque Viejo del Carmen, Sabido said that case is slightly more sophisticated in nature specifically because “it’s still in customs’ custody and because customs gives a time period for the owner of the material to present legitimate documents.

If within a particular period of time they cannot present the documents, then the Controller of Customs can  move to seize the property.

“Also at the same time because we suspect that the material is of Guatemalan origin, we contacted the Guatemalan authorities and they are very much concerned about the fact that they have a container with rosewood of Guatemalan origin ending up in the customs area.”

To add to the scenario, Charles Rivas, a Forest Ranger stationed in Toledo for a few years, has been transferred to another location pending the outcome of his alleged involvement in the Rosewood trade.

Minister Alamilla said, “Unfortunately when you deal with public officers you have to be very careful about how you manage any allegation brought against them because you just can’t dismiss them like that…so we have taken him out of the area to ensure that if those allegations are true, that we have removed him from Toledo.”

The investigation continues to determine whether or not Mr. Rivas was indeed involved in the illegal trade and if so, what penalties he will face.

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