Police in Suriname seized timber in 100 containers at Paramaribo Port on April 17th. The timber was presumed to be illegal.

According to an official government statement, the police initiated a transfer of the containers out of the Port so that a comprehensive investigation could be conducted.

Various accounts of the incident have been reported, including claims of corruption and the alleged involvement of officials in the timber’s attempted export. According to Culturu, at least four customs officials were arrested, along with three forest rangers employed by the Foundation for Forest Management and Supervision (SBB).

The president of Suriname reportedly claimed that the smuggling route had been known about for a decade.

At the time of the latest update, it is unclear whether the investigation will be overseen by the Public Prosecution Service (OM), or the Fraud Department of the Suriname Police Force (KPS), or both.

Forested landscape of Suriname
Suriname is one of the most forested countries in the world. Photo: David Evers

Illegal logging in Suriname

Suriname is one of the most forested countries in the world.

As recent as 2015, 94% of Suriname was covered in forest. And in 2020, Suriname committed to maintaining 93% forest cover.

Relative to other countries in the region, reported timber seizures are rare in Suriname.

Regional map of forest law enforcement incidents in northeastern South America.
Regional map of recent forest law enforcement events in northeastern South America. Source: Timber Risk Map

Despite the relatively low frequency of reported forest law enforcement events in Suriname, the director of the SBB Stanley Betterson suggests that illegal logging in the country may account for 50 percent of logging.

A “Task Force” has been established under his rule which performs “double checking” in the sector.

According to Betterson, tens of thousands of illegal logs have been discovered at various log yards, totaling an estimated 100,000 cubic meters. Considering 20 cubic meters of logs per truck, that’s about 5,000 truckloads of timber.

This is a developing story. Last updated May 21, 2021 11:53am EST.

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