Forest Crime

The timber industry in Papua New Guinea is beset with corruption and political interference with widespread illegal practices and human rights abuses across the sector.

Some of the most commonly reported illegal practices include logging licences issued or extended in breach of regulations, failure to obtain proper consent from traditional landowners, substantial breaches of harvesting regulations by logging operators and the abuse of forest clearance permits for commercial agricultural projects. 

The timber industry is also assessed as being a high-risk sector for money laundering by the Bank of PNG, with illegal logging considered to be the second highest proceeds-generating offence in PNG after corruption.

Meanwhile, PNG's tax collector, the Internal Revenue Commission, has described the logging industry is “one of the most delinquent sectors insofar as tax compliance is concerned“. The IRC says logging companies are guilty of “egregious” transfer pricing, “entrenched” tax evasion and “deceptive behaviour”. 

A 2022 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime records that despite the scale of the problems in the logging sector, PNG is poorly equipped to deal with forest crime and the PNG Forest Authority 'has demonstrated little willingness to investigate and prosecute the criminality that allegedly plagues the sector'.

Although ‘forest crime issues are well known among the various government agencies, particularly the high risk of illegal logging’ there ‘is almost no oversight or enforcement on the ground, incidents are not recorded, and no data is available to indicate the scale or extent of these issues’. 

It is perhaps unsuprising therefore that Forestry Act and other parts of the forestry law framework in Papua New Guinea have been assesed as insufficient to combat widespread illegal logging and forest crime and greater emphasis needs to be placed on using criminal law sanctions, both in PNG and internationally, to tackle the illegal destruction of forest resources and the economic, social and environmental harm it causes.

These are the key findings in a report authored by Dr Hannah Harris from the Macquarie University Law School in Sydney, Australia and commissioned by ACT NOW!