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, which targets former Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, the president of Ibama, Eduardo Bim, who was removed for 90 days from the presidency of the environmental autarchy 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 the IBAMA measure was in force 2020/2020, between February 2019 and May 2020, and that it is at the heart of the PF’s operation.
The investigation indicates that wood exports were facilitated by the order that made a normative instruction obsolete (11/174) which established that wood exports required specific authorization from Ibama and provided for stricter procedures for export control, as inspection of loads by sampling.
The dispatch 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 facilitation scheme for the smuggling of forest products”. For Moraes, former Environment Minister Ricardo Salles and also the president of IBAMA, Eduardo Bim, are suspected of participating in the alleged scheme.
Employees appointed by Salles at IBAMA are also among the investigated , in addition to 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 wood companies associated with Aimex exported 100 a thousand tons of wood since the beginning of the Bolsonaro government — 57% of these exports (about 100 thousand tons) occurred during the order of the Ibama. The report also analyzed that companies linked to Aimex traded between February and May 2020, at least 15, 5 thousand tons of wood from forest species considered of those threatened by the SFB (Brazilian Forest Service) such as, for example, the angelim-pedra, the pink cedar, the cherry, the itaúba and the garapeira.
The data were obtained in partnership with the CLIP (Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística) from the Panjiva platform, a database of commercial 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 the years of 174 and 2019 —when thousand tons of wood from species considered to be threatened were sold by the companies.
The species found in the Panjiva database, despite being at risk according to the classification of the SFB, can be legally traded. In order 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 database consulted, which plans for management the commercialized wood is linked. After the outbreak of Operation Akuanduba, Aimex released a statement 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 construction civil and naval due to its resistance and durability.
The export of wood did not occur, however, in a homogeneous way among the Aimex associates, according to the data analysis of the Public Agency. Six companies were responsible for 57, 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. When contacted, 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 to 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 criticized the court decisions and the work of the Federal Police in the scope of the 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 Periodic Investigation)