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Jan 4, 2017

Rosewood Busted in South and West; Stiffer Penalties for Offenders?

The Forest Department is cracking down on the illegal harvesting of hardwood. Two major busts have been made in recent days in the west and south, which show that the illegal harvest of the precious wood continues despite the signing on to the CITES Convention. A Benque Viejo businessman, Miguel Angel Estala, appeared in the San Ignacio Magistrate court today and was fined for the unlawful possession of forest produce. The Forest Department confiscated thirty-one thousand board feet of rosewood in flitch and lumber and after pleading guilty for the find; Estala was fined a parsley one thousand dollars which is the maximum fine stipulated as penalty for the harvesting of the hardwood without a license. This is on the heels of a second rosewood bust at a Benque Viejo workshop a month ago in December 2016.  There was another bust in recent days which the department made in the Gomez Estate in the Toledo area which is described as privately owned. There the forest department found about one thousand board feet of rosewood along with two thousand board feet of Santa Maria lumber. No one has been charged and in both cases, the lumber is in custody of the department and under surveillance.


On the Phone: Wilbur Sabido, Chief Forest Officer

“This release is a follow up to a previous press release that we had issued on December eighth to the press and what we are informing the public is that as a follow up to that confiscation of thirty-one thousand board feet of rosewood, we have since charged the person that was caught in possession of the rosewood material.  We’ve charged the individual, Mr. Miguel Angel Estala at the San Ignacio Magistrate’s Court with the following charge: unlawful possession of forest produce which is in contravention of the Forest Act.  Mr. Estala pleaded guilty and the magistrate charged him the maximum fine under our Forest Act, which is a thousand dollars that needed to be paid forthwith.  The magistrate also awarded the rosewood material to the Government of Belize.  As far as we are reporting in the press release, we haven’t received any further information and we haven’t conducted any further confiscation other than the material that we found in Benque Viejo and the material that we also reported that we found in the Gomez estate in the Toledo District which actually took place on November sixteenth.  We’re reporting on two things here; one, the thirty-one thousand board feet of rosewood that was confiscated in the Benque Viejo area and then an additional one thousand board feet of rosewood that was found when we conducted an operation in the Punta Gorda Town area which is really in the Gomez Estate.  The material that was found in Benque Viejo, it was found in two forms; one, the flitch form which is a squared log.  The total of that material is approximately twenty thousand board feet and we also found additional material in lumber form in various sizes.  The total of that material is eleven thousand board feet.  So there was transformation of the material from the flitch form into value added products.  Now the reason why it was confiscated was because the material did not have the Forest Department marking which is the Forest Department’s stamp, nor could we be provided by the individual with any sort of permit or license which would legitimize the volume that we confiscated.  So then, the material was seized as unlawful possession of forest produce.  The other material which is the thousand board feet, it was found in this privately owned forest in flitch form.”


The Department says it is planning to present amendments to the Forest Acts in the House since penalties against offenders are lenient. 

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