NGO Finds Wood Smuggler’s Notebook Naming Officials

Forestry officials and Wildlife Alliance have obtained the notebook of a rosewood smuggler, who was intercepted smuggling 500 kg of illegally logged rosewood earlier this month, which details phone numbers, bribes and the names of the government officials who potentially received them.

Sokun Hort, rainforest technical manager with Wildlife Alliance, said that his team had ambushed a local timber trader after receiving a tip-off earlier this month in Koh Kong province.

“When he saw our team, he ran away into the forest and left his Land Cruiser…. When we checked [the car] we did not only find 500 kg of rosewood, but a [personal] phone book and some papers he had left,” Mr. Hort said Friday.

The booklet reveals the phone numbers of about 100 people, at least six of whom were identified as staff working with Wildlife Alliance, the Forestry Administration and the Military Police, Mr. Hort said. “We are currently conducting an investigation.”

The notebook also sheds light on clients and their timber requests as well as bribes and payments for logging and smuggling consignments of luxury wood.

“No one has been arrested yet, and there is no complete evidence, but we know that they were involved,” he said.

Heng Seng Hong, Forestry Administration chief for Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district, said that he could not release the names of suspects within the Forestry Administration as he had no proof that the notes were accurate, or indicated any wrongdoing.

“I am trying to find out if the notes are true or just written by someone,” Mr. Hong said Friday, adding that an investigation was ongoing.

In four separate cases in early May, Wildlife Alliance helped forestry officials seize a total of 4,573 kg of rosewood, which could fetch about $100,000.

Although not all notes in the booklet were clear and not all those mentioned in it are necessarily involved in illegal logging, Wildlife Alliance said that it was a unique find that could lead to the termination or sentencing of corrupt officials.

“We never thought we’d encounter this, and we are very lucky to find it,” Mr. Hort said.

(Additional reporting by Chin Chan)

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