Hong Kong Seizes Record Shipment of Honduran Wood

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Authorities in Hong Kong have seized rosewood from Honduras in what is reportedly the largest seizure of protected wood in the last ten years, highlighting how the demand for wood in Asia is driving illegal timber trafficking in Central America.

Customs officials in Hong Kong have announced the seizure of 92 tons of rosewood — some of which came from Honduras — in what the Hong Kong Department of Customs has identified as the largest contraband case involving a species of protected wood in the last decade, reported El Heraldo.

The shipment, which was seized on December 10, originated in Mexico, but was falsely declared as scrap rubber from Guatemala, reported Prensa Libre. Two individuals in Hong Kong were arrested in connection to the case.

Honduran rosewood is included among the protected species named in the multilateral conservation treaty known as the CITES, meaning that international trade in this type of wood has to be approved through a licensing system. It is prized by instrument makers and is also used to manufacture cabinets.

InSight Crime Analysis

As this case indicates, demand for wood in China is fueling illegal timber trafficking in Central America. In addition to Honduran rosewood, traffickers are also transporting large amounts of granadillo wood — which is often harvested in forest reserves — from Nicaragua to China.

Like other types of contraband trade — including drugs — wood trafficking relies on criminal networks to transport shipments and bribe customs officials. Earlier this year, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Global Program for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime told InSight Crime that the networks involved in eco-trafficking are often involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities as well. In addition, drug traffickers are driving deforestation in Central America by clearing forests so they can launder money through logging and cattle ranching.   

SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles

Elsewhere in the region, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil have been hard hit by the illegal timber trade. According to the World Bank, 42 percent of Colombia’s logging industry was illegal as of 2006, while a 2012 report estimated that 80 percent of Peru’s wood exports are contraband. In Brazil, the enormous scale of illegal logging — which accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the logging industry — has prompted authorities to deploy troops in the jungle and use drones to survey deforested areas.  

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