The Member of Parliament for Builsa South, Dr. Clement Apaak, has petitioned the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption at forestry commission fuelling the illegal harvesting and export of rosewood timber.
The legislator who has constantly led campaigns against the illegal harvesting of rosewood, in his petition made reference to the latest investigative report by Washington DC-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), alleging that the Forestry Commission is still issuing permits to members of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) to export rosewood despite a ban.
The report claims undercover investigators discovered that powerful Chinese and Ghanaian traffickers are still harvesting and shipping rosewood out of the country through “the help of ruling party members and complicity at all levels of government.”
“They have established an institutionalized scheme, fueled by bribes, to mask the illegal harvest, transport, export, and CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species]- licensing of the timber,” the report said.
According to the report, the illegal trade had continued through the “fraudulent use of ‘salvage permits,’ misdeclaration of timber species, use of ‘escorts’ to deal with control points, forging of official documents, and retrospective issuance of CITES permits.”
EIA says its investigators discovered that rosewood species were exported from the country to China as recently as June 18, 2019.
According to a press statement accompanying the report issued by Head of Communications at EIA-US, Lindsay Moran, senior officials of the Forestry Commission are complicit in the illegal trade.
“Traffickers told EIA investigators that officials from the Forestry Commission, at the local, regional and the national level are complicit of the scheme. A trafficker mentioned that [an official] of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission and responsible for signing CITES export permits, even receives a percentage of the value of the rosewood exported,” it claimed.
“Indeed, EIA also discovered a CITES permit for a rosewood shipment, signed by [the official], that was issued after the timber was unloaded in the Chinese port of Ningbo (Zhejiang Province), in flagrant violation of the international Convention,” the statement said.
Making reference to the report, Dr. Clement Apaak noted that these alleged crimes were made public even before the EIA released its findings.
“These acts of crime are things we all have foreknowledge of even before this report was issued. In my own constituency, such illegal felling of rosewood fueled by bribery and corruption of public officials have been ongoing for several years unabated even before this EIA investigative report. I will be ready to testify personally to your investigators on what I know about some of these acts,’’ his petition stated.
“I will also be ready to work with you to get officials from the Environmental Intelligence Agency (EIA) to provide your good office all the necessary support you will need to properly investigate the allegations. EIA is a reputable organization with an undented track record when it comes to investigating environmental crime. They are referred to as the FBI of environmental crime and have conducted similar investigations in Nigeria, Guinea Bissau and several other countries. I am confident that if your good office pursues the revelations made by the undercover investigators to the latter, we will be able to get to the bottom of this illegal trade and bring the perpetrators to book to save our environment and protect the lives of our people,’’ The petition read.
Dr. Apaak wants the Special Prosecutor to investigate Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, Executive Director of the Wildlife Division for the Forestry Commission, any other officials of the Forestry Commission, members of the New Patriotic Party, rosewood traffickers
and Port officials, and any related persons or institutions mentioned in the report
‘’I am humbly writing to invoke your jurisdiction to investigate the following persons and institutions mentioned in the report over allegations of bribery and corruption leveled against them so you can either prosecute them if found culpable or clear them.’’