Akuanduba is a deity from the mythology of the Araras indigenous people, who inhabit the state of Pará. According to legend, if someone committed an excess, contrary to the rules, the deity would play a small flute, restoring order.
It was from this legend of the Araras that the PF (Federal Police) borrowed the name for the investigation operation launched in May this year that targets former Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, Ibama president Eduardo Bim, who arrived in to be removed from the presidency of the environmental authority for 90 days as a precautionary measure, and other public agents and businessmen in the wood sector with suspicions of irregularities in wood export processes.
Six months after Operation Akuanduba, the Public Agency brings new information on how much wood was exported and which countries and companies received the product during the 15 months in which Ibama measure 7036900/2020 was in force, between February 2020 and May 2021, and which is at the heart of the PF’s operation .
The investigation points out that wood exports were facilitated by the order that made obsolete a normative instruction (15/2011) that established that wood exports required specific authorization from Ibama and provided for stricter procedures for export control, such as inspection of loads by sampling.
The order was suspended in May by order of the STF minister Alexandre de Moraes. In the decision, Moraes stated that, according to the work done by the PF with data, testimonies and documents, the investigations would point “to the existence of a serious scheme to facilitate the smuggling of forest products”. For Moraes, there are suspicions that former Environment Minister Ricardo Salles and the president of IBAMA, Eduardo Bim, participated in the alleged scheme.
Also among those investigated are employees appointed by Salles at Ibama, as well as companies in the wood sector, especially those linked to the Pará association Aimex (Association of Wood Exporting Industries of the State of Pará).
According to an unprecedented survey by the Public Agency, only the logging companies associated with Aimex have exported 174 thousand tons of wood since the beginning of the Bolsonaro government — 57% of these exports (approximately 100 thousand tons) occurred during the validity of the Ibama dispatch. The report also analyzed that companies linked to Aimex sold, between February 2020 and May 2021, at least 12.5 thousand tons of wood from forest species considered threatened by the SFB (Brazilian Forest Service) such as, for example, the angelim-pedra, the rose-cedar, the cherry, the itaúba and the garapeira.
The data were obtained in partnership with CLIP (Latin American Center for Journalistic Investigation) from the Panjiva platform, a base of business information and market intelligence maintained by S&P Global.
According to data from Panjiva, the volume of wood sold was greater in the 15 months in which the Ibama decree was in force than between 2016 and 2019 — when 11 thousand tons of wood from species considered to be threatened were sold by companies.
The species found in the Panjiva database, despite being at risk according to the SFB classification, can be legally traded. To legally extract wood in Brazil, it is necessary to approve a forest management plan by the state environmental secretariats.
It is not possible to ascertain, from the base of consulted information, which management plans the commercialized wood is linked to. After the outbreak of Operation Akuanduba, Aimex released a note in which it defends that wood is legal.
France, USA, Japan, Germany and Belgium were the countries that registered the most shipments of wood considered threatened by the Brazilian Forest Service while the investigated IBAMA decree was in force.
The woods that were the best shipped in the period were angelim-pedra, itaúba, garapeira and cherry, considered vulnerable by the SFB and used in civil and naval construction due to their strength and durability.
However, wood exports were not homogeneous among Aimex members, according to data analysis by the Agência Pública. Six companies were responsible for 78.5% of the shipments of wood considered threatened while the IBAMA measure was in force.
Among the companies that exported the most are Ebata Produtos Florestais Ltda and Tradelink, involved in the PF’s investigation. Both share a common past: infraction notices for environmental infractions, actions in the socio-environmental area in federal and state courts and socio-environmental conflicts. Sought out, Ebata did not manifest itself until publication.
Tradelink stated regarding Operation Akuanduba that all its operations “were legal and obeyed IBAMA rules and the interpretation adopted by the environmental agency regarding the relevant legislation”. About Operation Akuanduba, the company stated that “it is an investigation and none of the allegations have been proven”.
In recent demonstrations, Aimex has criticized the court decisions and the work of the Federal Police under Operation Akuanduba. In a publicly released statement, the association stated that it acts “in defense of the interests of its members and of the forest sector in a firm, but absolutely honest, legitimate and democratic manner.” Sought by the Public Agency, Aimex did not comment.
*This article is part of Special Amazon Without Law, from the Public Agency — apublica.org and had the collaboration of CLIP (Latin American Center for Journalistic Investigation)