Mozambique: Nine charged with illegal export of 76 containers of timber to China

Mozambique’s office of public prosecutions has charged nine people – eight Mozambique nationals and one Chinese – with involvement in the illegal export of 76 containers of timber to China, the attorney general’s office has said in a statement.

Among those charged are seven employees of Mozambique’s Tax Authority working at the International Maritime Terminal (TIMAR) at Pemba in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, and an employee of Chinese timber export company Feishang Resources Africa.  

The Chinese national in question had been made a trustee of the seized wood in August 2020 and is now accused of participating in the illegal export of the product.  

Four of the nine defendants are being held on remand and five have already been ordered to post bail to secure their release, with one having done so.

According to the attorney general’s office, there is “strong evidence of disobedience, abuse of trust, illegal exploitation of forest resources and smuggling” on the part of the detainees, who are also suspected of “falsification of authentic documents or documents that provide full proof, use of false documents and association to commit crimes.”  

Part of the illegally exported timber – specifically 66 containers – was recovered and brought back to Cabo Delgado province. Steps are being taken with the Chinese authorities to return the remaining 10 containers and identify more suspects.  

In May, Cabo Delgado’s provincial prosecutor, Octávio Zilo, said that the Mozambique authorities had recovered 66 containers of seized timber that had left the port of Pemba illegally on board a ship bound for China. 

Zilo said that the recovered timber had been illegally removed from the port, after having been held there by order of a court, following the seizure of 76 containers in August 2020. 

The timber, which is now in the hands of the Mozambique authorities, amounts to 2,032 cubic metres, Zilo said. 

According to the prosecutor, the ship carrying it was already in international waters and the seizure was possible thanks to cooperation between the Mozambique and Chinese authorities. 

Several national and international studies have warned that Mozambique’s forests are being plundered by loggers who exploit resources without concern for sustainability, and that most of the timber illegally exploited in this way is destined for China.