Washington, DC - Global Plywood and Lumber Trading LLC (Global Plywood) pleaded guilty Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to violating the Lacey Act. The corporation admitted that it failed to exercise due care when it imported illegally-sourced timber from the Peruvian Amazon into the United States. The court sentenced Global Plywood to pay $200,000 in restitution to the Ministry of Environment of Peru and a $5,000 fine.
Global Plywood was incorporated in Nevada and operated out of Poway, California. In August 2015, Global Plywood purchased approximately 1,135 cubic meters of hardwood blanks from three Peruvian suppliers. The wood, consisting of species of Virola from the Loreto region of the Peruvian Amazon, arrived at the Port of Houston aboard the M/V Yacu Kallpa on September 27, 2015, where it was seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
Peru issues Forest Travel Guides to establish a chain of custody and ensure that any timber harvested or transported is legal. The Agency for Supervision of Forest Resources and Wildlife (OSINFOR) audits harvest sites to ensure legal compliance. OSINFOR made its findings available on SIGO, an open-source website maintained by the Peruvian government. Importers are able to check SIGO to determine if there have been any irregularities regarding specific harvest permits and Forest Travel Guides. Global Plywood was aware of such public reports detailing instances of illegal logging and fraud within the Peruvian timber industry.
The investigation revealed that approximately 92% of the wood that Global Plywood imported had been unlawfully harvested or transported. In pleading guilty, Global Plywood acknowledged that it failed to exercise due care in that it (i) did not obtain or review relevant harvest permits or Forest Travel Guides prior to import, (ii) failed to check SIGO for irregularities connected to the timber purchased, and (iii) relied on statements made by suppliers without further investigation, a site visit, or other confirmation of the truth of those statements.
The Lacey Act prohibits, among other things, the import of plants, wildlife, or fish without exercising due care to identify the source of the goods. Global Plywood dissolved in 2017, having forfeited and disposed of the illegal timber pursuant to a civil action.
The Trade Enforcement Group of Homeland Security Investigations in Houston and CBP conducted the investigation with assistance from Peruvian authorities. Trial Attorneys Patrick Duggan and Ryan Connors of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division prosecuted the case.