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Tuesday, March 26 2019 @ 12:28 PM UTC

ANAM Seizes 13 Containers Full Of Illegal Cocobolo Wood

Environmental IssuesA total of 13 containers loaded with the highly prized "cocobolo" wood that were to being smuggled into Hong Kong and worth about $4 million in the Chinese market, were seized by the Customs authorities of Panama, an official said Tuesday.

The containers loaded with the wood, camouflaged on paper as scrap metal, were discovered on Monday the Port of Balboa, on the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, as revealed during a press conference by the Administrator of the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) Silvano Vergara.

The discovery of more than 200 cubic meters of logs of wood occurred after the ANAM received an anonymous complaint about the intention of removing them from the country disguised as scrap metal, reported to the entity by the National Authority customs (ANA), according to Vergara.

This case was handled by the Office of Environmental Crimes.

Several individuals as well as the company Hong Kong Scrap Metal Panama, who had managed the shipment of the supposed load of scrap metal, are under investigation by the authorities.

So far this year Panamanian authorities have seized more than 500 cubic meters of wood.

In addition to this case there are another 200 trucks of wood that are being processed in the office of the prosecutor, said Vergara, who said the numbers of these types of seizures are increasing.

He said during 2013 they seized more than 700 cubic meters of this endangered precious wood, most of which was being transported to China, which is its main market.

Vergara said that is a "palatable criminal activity" for illegal loggers, so he said they are coordinating their efforts with other security agencies in the country, as well as Interpol, to prosecute these crimes.

He explained that although the logging of cocobolo is not prohibited but rather regulated.

The illegal logging of cocobolo always harms the environment, and there have even been instances of assaults with firearms against officers and rangers.

The marketing of this wood is allowed by the indigenous communities that have management plans for proper operation, allowing them to benefit from its profits for projects of their populations, said Vergara.

In Panama, the indigenous Embera Wounaan use it to make crafts.

The "cocobolo" is a very hard wood that can not be processed in Panama and is generally used in the manufacture of panels in luxury cars and for making fine furniture.

The ANAM regulates the logging of "cocobolo" in their species Dalbergia retusa and Dalbergia darienensis.

Penalties for violations of this regulation range from $6,000 to $50,000 in fines along with a sentence of three years in prison.

"Cocobolo" trees grow more than 20 meters high, and they can be found in the sectors of Chimán, east of the capital, and in the Darien jungle province bordering Colombia , where loggers operating in both areas jostle the precious wood.

A board foot of "cocobolo" sells for between $60 to $80 abroad, with China appearing as one of the main buyers. (Telemetro)

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