A scandal pertaining to the theft of rare and precious kevazingo wood seized by Gabon officials has allegedly resulted in the termination of the Vice President of Gabon as well as the Forestry Minister.
Earlier this year, Gabonese officials uncovered a smuggling operation and seized nearly 400 shipping containers of illegally harvested wood from the rare and protected kevazingo tree. The kevazingo tree can take up to 500 years to reach its full size and thanks to environmental protection laws adopted in Gabon in 2018 it is illegal to export in its raw form. Shortly after the shipping containers were seized, roughly 350 containers (with an estimated street value of US $250 million) went missing. According to media, at least 200 containers of kevazingo wood have been recovered thus far.
Gabonese President Ali Bongo has been in office since 2009 following the death of his father (who served as President from 1967 – 2009) and is sometimes described as an “environmental crusader.” President Ali Bongo is reported to have prioritized safeguarding Gabon’s unique wildlife with a focus on the country’s rain forests and its elephant population; he reportedly heavily influenced the expansion of protected environmental zones, created more than 10 new national parks, and has banned the exportation of raw wood resources.
Recently, President Ali Bongo dismissed Vice President Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou and Forestry Minister Guy Bertrand Mapangou; although there have been no official announcements regarding any connections between either of their dismissals and any involvement in the kevazingo wood scandal, media accounts indicate that the two events are in fact related. Additionally, Head of Customs Dieudonne Lewamouo has been detained as a result of investigations into the smuggling operation and at least 13 officials have been suspended.
Whether you are a company, a government, or another organization it takes work to establish a culture that doesn't tolerate corruption. We're glad to see the government of Gabon working to do just that. Unfortunately, misconduct does occur within professional relationships, whether between business partners, employers and employees, or between government officials. Companies and organizations can best protect themselves by preventing questionable professional relationships through the use of a comprehensive due diligence program, and establishing good compliance programs. However, if your organization has fallen victim to corporate fraud, embezzlement, or any other unlawful conduct, Smith Brandon International can assist you in recovery actions (for example, through international asset searches or litigation support.) Call Smith Brandon today.