ABOVE: Watch 16×9’s full investigation into the trail of illegal lumber stolen in Russia, shipped to China and sold in Canada.
Timber thieves are stealing wood from the Russian Far East, processing it in China and then shipping it to North America to sell, a 16×9 investigation has found.
Shipping records show that Xingjia, a Chinese company that has been accused of illegally sourcing its wood from Russia, sent more than $5.7 million worth of wood to the port of Vancouver.
Sascha Von Bismarck, who runs the Environmental Investigation Agency, spent three years tracking wood from the Russian Far East to Xingjia. Some of that wood is eventually sold in North America – much of it by Lumber Liquidators, Von Bismarck alleges.
WATCH: Von Bismarck discusses how the U.S. regulates illegal wood and what Canada should be doing.
Lumber Liquidators has nine retail stores in Canada. The company has denied these allegations, saying the EIA report “contained fundamental inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims.” Xingjia has also denied these allegations in the past.
Lumber Liquidators said the sourcing, harvesting and manufacturing of all of its products is in accordance with U.S. and international laws. In fact, the company said it goes above and beyond industry standards by ensuring that every shipment of wood is legal.
The company said if proper documentation for an order is not produced, it will “reject that order before it leaves a dock.” Lumber Liquidators has a training program and has regular audits performed by independent parties to make sure that its wood comes from permissible forests, it says.
WATCH: Don Finkell, chairman of the Hardwood Federation, worked with environmental and industry groups to develop voluntary standards for importers to make sure they are bringing in legally cut wood.
The shrinking forest in the Russian Far East is threatening the survival of Siberian tigers. There are fewer than 500 of the rare, elusive big cats left on earth. Logging is reducing their food supply of red deer and wild boar, which feed on acorns and pine nuts.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Producer, Gil Shochat, talks about the Environmental Investigation Agency’s Sascha Von Bismarck and the access he gained in his undercover work.
Experts suggest that as much as 75 per cent of all hardwood flooring sold in big-box home repair chains comes from Chinese producers – a sharp increase from just one decade ago, when it was below 20 per cent.
There are also concerns about lax oversight in China over chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Flooring that was made in China and is sold in North America contains high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, according to tests conducted by the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association.