Gabon recovers 200 containers of rare hardwood, 153 still missing

71 of the missing containers were found on the port premises of Cameroon-registered transport company, SOTRASGAB
Gabon Hardwood - Authorities search for Chinese nationals
(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 6, 2010 in Libreville, Francois Wu (C) – also known as Wu Jufeng – former chief executive of Leroy Gabon and Pogab, a Gabonese branch of European laminated wood maker Plysorol, is escorted by Gabonese gendarmes as he leaves after negociations with employees of Leroy Gabon and Pogab factory protesting against representatives of Chinese group Guahuo Zhang who claim to be majority stakeholder. – Chinese businessman Francois Wu is “being actively sought” announced the Gabonese prosecutor Olivier N’Zahou on May 13, 2019, in the case of the alleged theft of hundreds of seized containers of kevazingo, a rare wood in which trading is illegal. Customs officers had discovered the collection of rare hardwood worth millions of dollars in February and March 2019, at two Chinese-owned depots at the Owendo timber port on the Libreville peninsula. (Photo by WILS YANICK MANIENGUI / AFP)

 200 containers of protected hardwood have been recovered by Gabon out of a larger haul confiscated by authorities earlier in the year and then, went missing.

The announcement, followed a promise from Gabon’s president to punish those responsible for the theft in April of 353 containers of illegally felled Kevazingo wood – worth almost $250 million – from a cache of 392 containers seized at the port of Owendo in late February and early March.

Gabon’s prosecutor – general, Olivier N’zahou says 71 of the missing containers were found on the port premises of Cameroon-registered transport company, SOTRASGAB and 129 were found on the property of company, Owendo Container Terminal (OCT). 

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Two Chinese nationals are being held in relation to the case, which N’zahou says also involved Gabonese authorities. 

“The people detained, and those who are set to be, will be presented before the state prosecutor once the investigation is completed”, N’zahou says, adding that 153 containers still remain unaccounted for. 

SOTRASGAB and OCT did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

There is high demand in Asia for wood from the rare Kevazingo tree, which can take 500 years to grow to its full height of 40 meters (130 feet). While forestry is a major industry for Gabon, the Kevazingo is protected by law.

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