This week the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a video in which undercover agents of the NGO were trying to sell illegally harvested wood from Romania to representatives of the Austrian company Holzindustrie Schweighofer, which operates in the country. At a press conference, the environmental group presented hidden camera footage it claimed shows Romanian Schweighofer officials agreeing to a possible purchase of ''illegally harvested wood and even promising bonuses to the seller''.
In response, Gerald Schweighofer, the owner of the Schweighofer group said in a statement that the company ''strongly rejects all accusations that it is supporting or a benefiter of illegal wood trading. ''Statements of a company employee presented in a recent video material published by EIA have been massively shortened according to the involved employees, presented in a false context and is therefore misleading and providing wrongful information,'' Schweighofer added.
Moreover, Gerald Schweighofer said that ''any wood delivery to Holzindustrie Schweighofer has to be sourced from legal harvesting only.'' Also the company ''strictly refuses to buy and process any wood from national parks and permanent and regular controls by responsible authorities are taken in all company's mills,'' Mr. Schweighofer added.
The EIA allegations are not the first. Back in January, a Romanian environmental NGO, Agent Green, claimed to have tracked an illegal timber shipment coming from Romania's Retezat Forest National Park and going to Schweighofer's plant in Sebes.
Representatives of the NGO filmed the alleged timber truck all the way from the forest up to the factory gates of Schweighofer's sawmill. Authorities confirmed that the shipment was illegal. Similar to the EIA case, Gerald Schweighofer issued a statement denying all accusations and comitting to strengthen the system of checking the sources of the harvested wood.
In Romania there are already many years since a strong movement against the activity of Holzindustrie Schweighofer has been established. NGO's, journalists, media in general, forest industry companies, civil society representatives blame Schweighofer for the destruction of Romanian forests and Romanian authorities for allowing it. In the country, ''the termite of Romanian forests'', ''the terminator'', ''the apocalypse after Schweighofer'' are well-known appelatives for the company or Mr. Schweighofer himself.
Whether Holzindustrie Schweighofer deliberately buys illegal wood from Romania is hard to prove. However it's a fact that the company holds a monopoly in the Romanian forest industry and that authorities are quietly allowing the slow dissapearance of forests in the country.