Dutch Raid: Traders Smuggle Russian Timber into EU via China

The EU is ramping up compliance checks on Russian timber in the lead up to the EUDR roll out later this year.

Fri 07 Jun 24


Dutch authorities have arrested two business owners, who are now accused of smuggling Russian timber into the EU via China.

The arrests were made by the FIOD—the Netherlands’s Fiscal Information and Investigation Service—responsible for investigating financial crimes and comes amid an EU-wide crackdown on conflict timber that continues to circumvent sanctions placed on Russia’s forest supply chain.

Under new laws approved by the European Commission late last year, timber trafficking is among a raft of environmental offences now prosecuted in the criminal courts, with INTERPOL working with EU member states to catch traders who push conflict, illegal, and deforested timbers through the trading block.

243452354 4591112034235346 6944218220686502400 n 1 1024x768.jpg
The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest shipping port and is among the top 15 in the world. It is the largest hub for forest and wood products imported to the EU and exported to global markets. (Photo Credit: Supplied by Port of Rotterdam)

According to Statistics Netherlands, Dutch shipping ports are Europe’s busiest for timber from locations at risk of deforestation. The Port of Rotterdam—Europe’s second-largest importer of timber-based products—is a central distribution point into and through the EU.

In the last year alone, more than 120 million tons of timber in Europe had no official certificate of origin. Much of the “non-official” timber arrived in Europe from Russia via China and a block of nine countries, including Kazakhstan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan.

In a media release supplied by FIOD, the accused – a man (73) and woman (46) – will be tried under the Netherlands Sanctions Act and the Economic Offences Act – which could lead to a jail sentence.

As a popular trading route for European and global markets – 95% of Europe’s most lucrative markets are within 24 hours of Amsterdam or Rotterdam – forest trade has boomed over the past 20 years, with Dutch ports a popular point for Chinese traders in timber furniture.

Vladimir Putin and Alexey Mordashov 2018 02 21 fotor 20240223135821 1024x632.jpg 3
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Alexey Mordashov, Russia’s richest man, who has profiteered off selling plywood into the North American market. (Photo Credit: Wiki Commons, under Creative Commons)

The sting comes after German customs officials, in April, seized a vessel carrying more than €40 million of timber from Russia bound for the US, in what amounts to the largest confiscation of conflict timber since the start of the Ukraine conflict.

Whilst a report in March revealed that more than $173 million in forest products were traded through deforested Kazakhstan last year – via Russia and Belarus, leading investigators to allege that Poland was fast becoming a new “ground zero” for Russian and Belarussian traders to avoid sanctions.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


Related Articles