Swedish tycoon’s firm fined for destroying Amazon rainforest

June 8th, 2008 - 1:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Rio de Janeiro, June 8 (IANS) Brazilian authorities have slapped a fine of $234 million on a company owned by Swedish tycoon Johan Eliasch for illegally felling 230,000 trees in the Amazon rainforest, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Sunday. London-based Eliasch is being investigated in Brazil by the Abin state intelligence agency for allegedly illegally buying large swathes of the rainforest and grassland in order to commercially exploit it through a company known as Gethal Amazonas S.A., the news agency quoted officials as saying.

Eliasch has also been accused of owning the property without valid certification, Brazil’s official Agencia Brasil news agency reported.

The fine levied Saturday by environmental agency Ibama was for illegal “extraction, transport and sale” of close to 700,000 cubic meters of lumber equivalent to 230,000 trees.

Gethal Amazonas has been given 20 days to appeal the fine, Ibama said.

Brazil’s agrarian reform body, or Incra, has registered 33,000 properties acquired by foreigners covering a total of 5.5 million hectares in the Amazon.

The announcement of the fine comes as the Brazilian government is seeking to reaffirm its commitment to protecting the rainforest.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration has come under fire by environmentalists following the release of official statistics showing that deforestation of the Amazon has been accelerating.

The Amazon rainforest in the northern part of South America is the biggest forest in the world and is also the last big space covered with tropical plants and animals.

It is shared by nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana and Guiana.

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