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China’s chance to curb an unlawful forest trade network destroying biodiversity in Papua New Guinea

New Global Witness investigation reveals how a seemingly fraudulent rubber company, Maxland, is responsible for deforestation on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island - a rainforest crucial for the planet’s biodiversity.
Financiers linked through Malaysian banks - such as Blackrock and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund - have enabled the flow of money into Maxland’s damaging projects.
The NGO uncovers how Chinese companies buying timber from Maxland could be subject to stronger restrictions under revisions to China’s Forest Law.
Findings also expose how the company has broken its promises with local communities and been linked to human rights abuses. 

A new investigation from Global Witness uncovers how a company operating in Papua New Guinea has apparently been illegally logging huge swathes of climate-critical rainforest - trees crucial for the preservation of this biodiversity hotspot.

The NGO - which has a strong focus on natural resources governance - exposes how the company, Maxland, is using a fraudulent rubber plantation on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea apparently as a front for illegal logging. 

The investigation found Maxland is not only destroying thousands of climate-critical trees for profit - but also failing to honour promises to local village spokesmen of a new road and rubber plantation to work on - in return for granting access to the forests in the first place. 

Even more worrying are villager concerns raised about the project, and apparent human rights abuses uncovered in the report as a result of Maxland’s activities - in one case with a protest against the logging allegedly leading to a violent beating. 

Concerns are also raised in the report about Maxland’s owner - international businessman Thomas Hah. The report reveals how his web of business interests encompasses firearms and cryptocurrency, spreading out from China and Hong Kong to secrecy jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands - and now apparently illegal logging in Papua New Guinea. 

The global financial web helping fund Maxland’s operations also reaches across the world - through to asset manager Blackrock and Norway’s Government Pension Fund, which are major investors in a trio of Malaysian banks that have funded the project.

Now, with these findings and new evidence that Maxland has a mother company with a track record of destroying biodiverse-rich forests, Global Witness is calling for tighter regulation and due diligence on the financing of projects like these. 

The call comes ahead of major biodiversity milestones - including the International Day of Biodiversity, and China’s scheduled hosting of the COP 15 of Convention on Biological Diversity - and highlights the importance of clarifying that China’s new Forest Law contains important prohibitions on illegal timber imports. China is Papua New Guinea's single largest timber importer, with 85% of the country’s millions of cubic meters of timber travelling to China and going on to supply consumer markets around the world. 

Beibei Yin, China policy and advocacy senior advisor, Global Witness said:

“Our investigation couldn’t be clearer: biodiversity is at huge risk from the illegal forest trade in Papua New Guinea. As new implementation regulations around the China Forest Law are being developed, China’s government must take the chance to flag to Chinese businesses and other countries that these timber imports into its shores are also prohibited.”

“Financiers and companies must also take responsibility for the global and local impact their financing is having. It’s crucial they apply more robust checks on their supply chains to stop players like Maxland and Thomas Hah getting the upper hand over our planet and its people.”



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