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Large-scale violations exposed in Russian forestry sector

August 08, 2013, 13:51 UTC+3

48 criminal cases have been opened, 600 persons have been brought to administrative and disciplinary responsibility

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NOVO-OGAREVO, August 8 (Itar-Tass) - Violations in Russia’s forestry sector have become massive, Russia's Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika stated at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The head of state asked the prosecutor about the state of affairs with the protection of the state interests in the forestry sector. The prosecutor replied that his agency has conducted a large-scale inspection in the forestry sector that involved the prosecution authorities, law enforcement agencies and inspection bodies. “We have checked practically all forest regions of the country - the Far Eastern, Siberian, Urals and North-Western Federal Districts,” Chaika said. According to him, efficiency of the exercise of the functions in the sphere of forest relations by bodies of state authority, local self-government bodies, inspection bodies and oversight agencies has been checked. Assessment was given to the accuracy of the statistical reporting on the areas of fires, illegal logging, on the observance of the rules of customs registration of timber, as well as to compliance with law in the course of search operations and criminal investigation in this sphere.

“The checks have shown that violations have become massive,” the prosecutor general stated. He added that over 50 percent of all violations are illegal logging, contamination of timberland, unauthorised occupation and use of forests.

“Stock taking of the forest resources and their cadastral registration are made improperly, there is no strict customs control, the debts for the use of forests are actually not collected,” the prosecutor told Putin. “The collection rate is just 3 percent, and the debt amount currently stands at 8 billion roubles.”

The inspections have also exposed corruption offences, abuse of authority by officials of government agencies and local self-government bodies in the allocation of forest plots for use. “In our view, very serious offences have been revealed - the widespread practice of illegal timber harvesting on a commercial scale based on documents of the municipal bodies that basically can harvest timber only for their own consumption. However, they were engaged in commercial logging on a mass scale selling timber mainly to China,” the prosecutor general said.

The prosecutors have revealed a total of over 5,000 violations. To correct them, more than 1,000 submissions were made, over 350 protests were lodged, including against unlawful enactments of local self-government bodies, bodies of authority of Russian Federation subjects. More than 500 claims to recover damages from the responsible persons for the total sum of nearly 40 million roubles and to ban or suspend the functioning of that or other structures violating the law have been filed.

As many as 48 criminal cases have been opened, 600 persons have been brought to administrative and disciplinary responsibility as a result of the inspections. “We have also covered a set of criminal cases, already existing materials, put on record an additional 200 concealed crimes in the sphere of forest use,” Chaika said.

Two thousand unlawful decisions to refuse to initiate criminal proceedings over the facts of illegal logging and almost 1.6 thousand rulings on suspension and dismissal of criminal cases have been cancelled. “We have also verified criminal intelligence materials and assigned tasks on 2,000 materials,” he said in Novo-Ogarevo.

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