Timber mafia

Timber mafia refers to organized crime in the field of illegal logging in timber.


Brazil has rampant illegal logging,[1] with deforestation increasing in 2013.[2] The mafia intimidate opponents, however they also have a veneer of legitimacy.[3]


Congo is also a victim of the illegal timber trade.[1]


Protected forest areas in parts of India – such as Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Jharkhand – are vulnerable to illegal logging by timber mafias that have coopted or intimidated forestry officials, local politicians, businesses and citizenry.[4][5] Non-state groups have joined the nexus in militancy-affected areas such as Kashmir.[6] Clear-cutting is sometimes covered-up by conniving officials who report fictitious forest fires.[7]

Many studies indicate large losses of forest cover to indiscriminate logging by timber mafias, with over a million hectares in the environs of Chhotanagpur alone being illegally transferred by the forest department directly to industrial, mining and logging companies.[8] Besides the environmental degradation, public financial losses can be substantial: One 1994 estimate of stolen timber in the state of Karnataka amounted to Rs 10 billion (about US$230 million).[9] Veerappan was a notorious bandit who, until his shooting death by state police in 2004, specialised in illegally logging sandalwood in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.[10]

As with coal, there have been incidents of substitution of low-grade wood for high-quality timber when the procurement of wood is authorised for government use. In an incident in 2005, officials determined that high-quality deodar wood meant for military and railway use had been substituted with lower-quality chir wood in Jammu and Kashmir state; the higher quality wood was intercepted in the process of being smuggled across the state border into Punjab.[11]


The forests of Borneo were also victim to illegal logging and threatens livelihood and the ecosystem.[12]


The forest industry in Romania is dominated by a “timber mafia” or a “forest mafia.” Half of all Romanian timber is illegally harvested. Those who cross the timber mafia or attempt to enforce Romania’s forest laws are targeted for retribution.[13]


  1. "The Mafia is Behind 90% of Illegal Logging in the Tropics". TreeHugger.
  2. "Brazil Amazon destruction rises 28 per cent". www.aljazeera.com.
  3. "Deadly battle with Amazon's mafia". 16 November 2005 via news.bbc.co.uk.
  4. Marcus Colchester and Christian Erni, Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas in South and Southeast Asia: From Principles to Practice, IWGIA, 1999, ISBN 87-90730-18-6: "The Forest Department is perceived as corrupt, colluding with timber contractors (the timber mafia), and taking bribes from the communities in return."
  5. Ajay Singh Rawat, Forest Management in Kumaon Himalaya: Struggle of the Marginalised People, Indus Publishing, 1999, ISBN 81-7387-101-9: "within 5 years in the Western Circle, 13 forest officials have been murdered and 39 fatally wounded in their bid to prevent illicit timber trade ... Politicians are chary of getting on the wrong side of the timber mafia, which has proved to be extremely generous during election time."
  6. Ajay Singh Rawat, Man and Forests: The Khatta and Gujjar Settlements of Sub-Himalayan Tarai, Indus Publishing, 1993, ISBN 81-85182-97-3: "forest officials are scared to enter the thick forests unarmed and thus the timber mafia, allegedly patronized by the militants, deal freely in illegal timber trade."
  7. H.C. Upadhyay, Status of Scheduled Tribes in India, Anmol Publications Private Limited, 2004, ISBN 81-261-0367-1: "The timber mafia in collusion with concerned forest officials are reported to resort to the so-called accidental forest fire to hide their illegal plundering."
  8. Prem Xalxo, Complementarity of Human Life and Other Life Forms in Nature: A Study of Human Obligations Toward the Environment with Particular Reference to the Oraon Indigenous Community of Chotanagpur, India, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2007, ISBN 88-7839-082-8: "the unholy alliance between the timber mafia and forest officials is the major cause of deforestation. Although the Forest Conservation act of 1990 forbade the transfer of forest land without the permission of the Central Government of India, the control of over one million hectares of forest land was given to mining companies, industrial units and other private agencies between 1980 and 2006 by the Forest Department."
  9. The Indian Journal of Public Administration v.40, Indian Institute of Public Administration, 1994: "In Karnataka, again, on account of evident collusion between politicians, officials and a mafia group, timber worth one thousand crore of rupees has been illegally procured from forests in recent months."
  10. "The rise and rise of Veerappan". The Hindustan Times. 2002. Archived from the original on 13 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
  11. "After water for petrol, Army gets 'substandard' wood". The Tribune, Chandigarh. 1 August 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
  12. McVeigh, Tracy (23 October 2010). "Borneo's majestic rainforest is being killed by the timber mafia". The Guardian via www.theguardian.com.
  13. Ellis, Glenn. "'Timber Mafia' threatens the future of Romania's ancient forests". www.aljazeera.com. Al Jazeera. Retrieved 3 December 2020.
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