Fraud Exposed: Poland is EU’s Ground Zero for Conflict Timber

Raw logs at port in Kolobrzeg, Poland. A new investigation alleges that Belarussian imports to Poland, via Kazakhstan has surged five-fold since the European Union introduced sanctions on the country’s €1B timber industry. (Photo Credit: Maciej Bledowski / Alamy Stock Photo) (For Illustration only)

Poland is the new gateway for Belarussian timber, with the import of timbers (via Kazakhstan) surging and leaving authorities flat-footed.

It comes as Wood Central earlier this month reported that the EU was struggling to enforce its sanctions, with Russian timbers entering the block via Belgium whilst at the same time Ukranian-linked ENGOs have been pushing for the United States and Japan to end their trade in Russian mass timber.

Now, a joint investigation involving the Belarussian Investigative Center, Radio Free Europe, and Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza alleges that Polish imports of timber from the largely deforested Kazakhastan grew from €14 million (pre-war) to more than €68 million last year as part of a €126 million global trade in conflict timber.

They allege Poland is the new western entry point for the Belarussian timber industry, which generated €1 billion in exports in 2021 before sanctions.

“We have documents indicating that Belarus-based companies are exploiting Poland as an entry point by falsifying shipping records to misrepresent Belarusian timber originating from Kazakhstan,” the group said in a joint statement earlier today.

“A January 2023 customs declaration (for example) bears counterfeit stamps and signatures from Kazakhstani officials, certified pine fence posts as exported from Kazakhsatni to a Polish company,” they said. “However, the listed supplier denied any financial transactions, calling the documents outright forgeries.”

Now, the investigators are concerned that Polish government authorities are not doing enough to verify all customs declarations, underscoring gaps that, they said, “allow for fraudulent paperwork,” which “only requires rudimentary forgery skills to mask the sanctioned cargo’s true origin.”

It comes as Russia now uses Poland as a gateway to trade agricultural products into the EU, “with agricultural products alone reaching $173 million in 2023, exceeding the pre-war 2021 figure.” “Notably, imports of grains and oilseeds, blocked from Ukraine since September 2023, doubled in the last three months of 2023.”

Russian and Belarussian logs continue to travel via train and sea across Eurasia as Putin’s linked oligarchs continue to get rich by selling timber into Western markets. (Photo Credit: Kekyalyaynen via Adobe Stock Images)

Earlier this month, Wood Central reported that global scientists are now using state-of-the-art tech to trace timber flows entering the EU, cracking 82% of conflict timber claims coming from Russia.
Scientists are using state-of-the-art tech to correctly trace the flow of timbers entering the EU from Russia and Belarus and have developed a new framework that policymakers can use to eliminate conflict timber worldwide.

The new tech has the potential to completely transform the global supply chain of forest-based products, which has, until now, relied on “origin declaration statements” and third-party certification schemes to verify and demonstrate the “chain of custody” from origin.

It uses Gaussian process (GP) regression to predict timber harvest locations, adding that “GP regression models use values in sampled locations to estimate values in surrounding locations, allowing us to consider a continuous area.”

“This allows deriving the probability of observing a specific measurement at any location in the study area in a way that accounts for varying levels of prediction uncertainty,” which “incorporates trace elements and allows verification testing.”

Before the sanctions, 12% of all timber entering the EU was from Russia and Belarus. Wood Central last year reported that both countries now use China, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan to trade timber into the West.

Source: Fraud Exposed: Poland is EU's Ground Zero for Conflict Timber | Wood Central