By Alfred Sasako
A group of logging companies which exported about 20,000cm3 of round logs in defiance of High Court Orders is planning another large shipment, it was revealed last night.
Sources familiar with the arrangement told Island Sun yesterday two export permits were issued for the export of 5,000cm3, although the companies knew these logs were subject to orders made in relation to the High Court Civil Case (HCCC) 496 of 2016 and HCCC 246 of 2018.
The new shipment is valued at around $6 million.
The logs are said to be from south-west Choiseul, where the High Court had found logging companies were undertaking felling outside their concession. As a result, the initial log shipments totalling 20, 000cm3 was confiscated by the State, the sources said.
“What the guilty party simply did was to change its identity by creating new companies which are then used to export the logs. These new companies are largely owned or connected to the guilty party. But because they are new entities they believe they are not bound by the High Court ruling to deposit the sales proceeds into trust account as ordered by the High Court.
“It is a very clever tactic,” the sources said.
Take the High Court Civil Case (HCCC) 496 of 2016 for example. This case involved a concession in south west Choiseul where some 3, 000cm3 valued at $3 million was confiscated by the State.
A new entity created after the High Court ruling exported the shipment, but since then no funds are said to have been paid into the Trust Account.
The same happened to a 4, 000cm3 of round logs, which was awarded the State in HCCC 246 in 2018. Again, newly-created companies connected to the guilty party had exported the shipment.
To date no funds have been paid into the Trust Account which the High Court had ordered. The shipment was valued at $4 million.
A similar thing happened to a shipment of 7, 000 cm3, said to be valued at $8 million went through the same process. But despite the High Court Order that proceeds from the sale of the log shipment be paid into a Trust Account, no funds have been deposited, according to those familiar with the matter.
The 5, 000cm3 shipment was also part of the HCCC 246 of 2018.
The third and final case involving HCCC 246 was the sale of 6, 000cm3 of round logs last year.
Despite the sale, no funds have been deposited in the Trust Account as ordered by the High Court, parties to the case told Island Sun.
The Commissioner of Forests is reportedly considering blacklisting companies that defied High Court Orders.