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January 18, 2017Houston, TX, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

Agreement reached to ensure destruction of timber believed to have been harvested in violation of Peruvian law

HOUSTON – The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that 24 pallets of timber believed to have been illegally harvested in Peru were destroyed in accordance with a settlement between the United States and the timber importer.

The settlement is the result of a coordinated effort by the following agencies: DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resource Division (ENRD), Wildlife and Marine Resources Section; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The timber was seized Dec. 20, 2015 by HSI at the Port of Houston, Texas for violation of the Lacey Act and customs law. It was destroyed in accordance with a settlement agreement reached by the United States and the importer of the timber, Oregon-based Popp Forest Products Inc. The agreement ensures that the timber, which the U.S. government maintains was harvested in violation of Peruvian law, will not enter the U.S. stream of commerce.

The Lacey Act, which is the oldest wildlife protection law in the United States, prohibits importing, exporting, transporting, or receiving timber harvested in violation of foreign laws that regulate the harvesting of such timber. This is the first time the United States has taken such action under the Lacey Act, which was amended in 2008 to include timber products.

“We all have a stake in the sustainability of the world’s forests, which provide habitat for endangered wildlife, and mitigate global warming by drawing carbon from the atmosphere, among many other benefits,” said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for ENRD. “The interdependence of the world’s ecosystems and natural resources is the foundation of the Lacey Act, the nation’s oldest environmental law. The law also provides us the tools to prevent illegally harvested timber from entering the U.S. marketplace and undercutting lawfully obtained products.”

“We are pleased to have reached a settlement in this case,” said Mark Dawson, special agent-in-charge of HSI Houston. “HSI will continue to work with our foreign and domestic partners to ensure imports to the United States are conducted in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations.”

The agreement reached between the United States and Popp Forest Products resolves allegations that the timber was harvested in Peru without proper authorization as required under Peruvian law or outside an approved zone. These allegations were based on a report HSI received from the Peruvian government under a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement, providing the results of an inspection carried out in the areas in which the timber was allegedly harvested. According to the report, the timber could not be the species authorized for harvest. This finding was corroborated in testing by the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory, which concluded that samples taken from the shipment were not the species authorized for harvest.

As part of the agreement, Popp Forest Products agreed to bear all costs associated with the transportation, destruction, and disposal of the seized timber. The United States agreed to waive further civil enforcement action, administrative fines or civil penalties for the alleged violations of the Lacey Act.  This civil agreement does not bind any criminal prosecuting authority, whether federal, state, or local.