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Gabon finds missing timber haul worth millions

Wednesday May 15 2019

Kevazingo trees

The rare Kevazingo tree, which can take 500 years to grow to its full height of 40 metres (130 feet), is highly valued in Asia but is illegal to fell in Gabon. PHOTO | STEVE JORDAN | AFP 

BBC
By BBC
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Millions of dollars' worth of a protected kind of wood that went missing earlier this year after being confiscated by authorities has now been recovered, a senior Gabonese prosecutor says.

Kevazingo wood is native to Gabon's Congo Basin. The rare tree, which can take 500 years to grow to its full height of 40 metres (130 feet), is highly valued in Asia but is illegal to fell in Gabon.

A total of 353 transport containers of the timber - worth nearly $250 million (£193 million; Sh25.3 billion) - had been stolen in April from an overall quantity of 392 containers.

Those 392 containers had been seized by authorities at the port of Owendo a month earlier.

But with 200 containers now recovered, there are still 153 unaccounted for.

THE PROBE

Reuters quotes Gabonese authorities as saying that the shipping containers recovered so far were found on the port premises of Cameroon-registered transport company SOTRASGAB, and on the property of company Owendo Container Terminal (OCT).

Neither company has responded to requests for comment.

Reuters reports that two Chinese nationals are being held in relation to the case.

Gabonese authorities are also involved, the news agency quotes Gabon’s prosecutor general Olivier N’zahou as saying.

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo earlier promised that all those involved in theft would be punished.