Belarus is circumventing EU sanctions by exporting its timber to EU international locations utilizing false paperwork claiming that the wooden comes from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, a Belarusian investigative web site revealed on Tuesday (20 December).
In March 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine through Belarusian territory, the European Union banned imports of some Belarusian wooden.
To bypass the sanctions, Belarus timber stored arriving to the same old purchasers with false paperwork, in keeping with the investigative web site “Belarusian Investigative Centre” (BIC).
The scheme ought to have raised suspicion within the EU as a result of it has led to a 74-fold improve of wooden exports from Kazakhstan and 18,000-fold surge from Kyrgyzstan in 2022, in comparison with the earlier yr.
In keeping with the investigation, which was made in cooperation with Siena (Lithuania), Kloop (Kyrgyzstan), Vlast (Kazakhstan), Re:Baltica (Latvia), Fundacja Reporterów (Poland) and OCCRP, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Venture, the scheme was partially run by former Belarusian officers.
‘Trainloads of pellets’
Kyrgyz firms with Belarusian hyperlinks supplied to provide sub-sanctioned merchandise on to the EU utilizing cast paperwork. The Belarusian Investigative Centre realized about three such firms, one among them planning to deliver “trainloads” of pellets to Europe.
After the introduction of sanctions, a wooden seller registered in Poland continues to make direct funds to its Belarusian accomplice. All of the whereas, the corporate claims that the wooden it’s importing comes from Kazakhstan.
Underneath the guise of a Polish consumer, BIC journalists known as the Polish firm and requested to purchase Belarusian wooden merchandise. The gross sales supervisor confirmed that the corporate did have wooden from Belarus, however it was quickly going to expire of inventory, including that the agency had begun to work with new suppliers from Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Nonetheless, the federal government of Kazakhstan blocked exports of wooden merchandise final November to develop the native wooden business. The ban was prolonged twice – in summer time and winter. The Kyrgyz authorities launched related measures.
BIC realized concerning the scheme from an e mail that reached their editorial workplace. A non-public Belarusian service firm known as High quality Normal supplied its providers for the re-export of products from the EU to Belarus by means of Kyrgyzstan.
Underneath the guise of potential purchasers, BIC journalists talked to the corporate’s supervisor and requested to purchase Belarusian wooden with certificates from Kyrgyzstan for supply to Europe.
Just a few days later, High quality Normal supplied cooperation with a counterpart in Kyrgyzstan serving to Belarusian wooden product suppliers receive Kyrgyz paperwork for his or her cargo and cross EU customs.
EURACTIV requested the authorities of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to touch upon the investigation.
A Kazakh official stated that his nation – which is a part of the Eurasian Financial Union comprising Russia, Belarus and different international locations – “is severe about its worldwide commitments”. Whereas Kazakhstan doesn’t assist sanctions as a means of resolving variations, it additionally doesn’t search to help within the circumvention of the sanctions of the EU and US sanctions towards Russian and Belarusian firms, the official stated.
The Kazakh official reminded that in an effort to forestall secondary sanctions on Kazakh firms, the nation recurrently holds consultations with the European Fee and the US administration.
“We urge Kazakh companies to watch out when transacting with counterparts in Russia and Belarus and to confirm sanctioned items and doing enterprise with people and corporations from the sanctions checklist. These lists are publicly out there and particular providers can be found to seek for these items, people and corporations,” the official added.
The Embassy of Kyrgyzstan didn’t reply to EURACTIV’s invitation to remark.
In 2020, Belarus was ranked ninth among the many world’s largest suppliers of wooden to the EU. The next yr, world wooden costs rose, and within the spring, they reached file ranges.
By the tip of 2021, Belarus had exported $2.3 billion price of wooden and wooden merchandise to Europe. This contains sawn logs and boards, plywood and chipboard, wooden pellets and briquettes.
Within the European Union, the primary patrons of those Belarusian-made items are Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, and the Netherlands.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]