In Gabon, several senior officials suspended after seizing tons of precious wood

With a value of 7 million euros, 353 containers of kevazingo, banned from export, were seized in February on the port of Owendo, in Libreville.

The World with AFP Posted today at 10:33

Time to Reading 2 min.

The timber sector is a central pillar of Gabon's economy, which is 80% forested.
The timber sector is a central pillar of Gabon's economy, which is 80% forested. XAVIER BOURGOIS / AFP

The Gabonese government announced Thursday (May 16th) that it has suspended several senior officials of the Gabonese administration after the disappearance in late April of hundreds of containers loaded with kevazingo, a precious timber banned from exploitation, seized by the courts two months earlier.

Investigations of what some in the Gabonese press have dubbed "kevazingogate" are continuing and the authorities have warned that no one would be safe, not even government members if they were involved.

The results "An investigation entrusted to the Directorate General of counter-interference have so far noted serious and inadmissible dysfunctions as well as active and passive complicities in water and forestry administrations and customs"Government spokeswoman Nanette Longa-Makinda said Thursday.

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Several senior executives have been suspended, including the chief of staff of the Ministry of Water and Forests and the Ministry of Economy.

At the end of February and the beginning of March, nearly 5,000 cubic meters of kevazingo, valued at around € 7 million, had been discovered at two warehouses belonging to Chinese companies, at the port of Owendo, Libreville.

Part of the kevazingo was loaded into containers bearing the Ministry of Water and Forestry stamp indicating a shipment of Okoumé, a timber species allowed for export.

Pillar of the Gabonese economy

After the discovery of these falsified documents, the head of the port ministry and his team were arrested on suspicion of being involved in this traffic. But on April 30, 353 of these containers, placed under the authority of justice, had mysteriously "volatilized".

Gabonese justice on Monday questioned an influential Chinese entrepreneur, accused of being the mastermind of kévazingo trafficking, with the complicity of Gabonese officials. Two hundred containers were subsequently found in the warehouses of two different companies.

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"The Prime Minister has said that his government would be exemplary, and that members who move away from this attitude would be punished. Those who are involved in this case are invited to draw the necessary consequences. "added the spokesperson.

Kévazingo is a rare Central African wood that is very popular in Asia, especially for making portals for temples, tea tables and meeting tables.

Representing 60% of GDP (excluding hydrocarbons), the forest sector is one of the historical pillars of Gabon's economy, a country covered almost 80% by the forest.

At the end of March, a report by a British NGO denounced the illegal practices of a Chinese group responsible for widespread logging in Gabon and Congo, accusing several political figures and agents of the administration to be involved.

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