- What key evidence was used to conclude the Lumber Liquidators case?
- Do you think the penalties are commensurate with the crime? Why or why not?
The Role of the Corporate Citizen
In this course we have focused primarily on animal species and have limited focus on forestry crimes, illegal logging and fisheries crime however these are covered in more detail in the course INV 6662 Environmental Crime Investigation. In this module, we will touch on a few key cases to give a short introduction to the wider definition sometimes used to encapsulate wildlife crime.
For the illegal trade in animal species, legitimate business is often found to commingle legitimate funds with illegal proceeds. In Module 3 we explored the types of businesses that may be linked with the trade. With criminal networks, we also see a prevalence of shell and shelf companies that can be used, for example, many global investigations have found front companies in Hong Kong that are difficult to trace as part of the ongoing trans-national investigations.
For timber or lumber, as it is sometimes called, furniture companies can often lie at the consumer end of the supply chain. Illicitly-sourced timber can be legitimized across the supply chain supported by falsified documentation and permits. A notable US case applying the Lacey Act is a Virginia-based hardwood flooring company that pled guilty to the illegal sourcing of timber that was manufactured in China but illegally sourced from Russia. The habitat destroyed by the illegal logging in Russia was home to some of the last remaining Siberian tigers and Amur Leopards. If the habitat is destroyed, it can affect the survival of the species and disrupt key eco-systems.
According to the DOJ, the company agreed to pay $13.15 million, including $7.8 million in criminal fines, $969,175 in criminal forfeiture, and more than $1.23 million in community service payments. Lumber Liquidators has also agreed to a five-year term of organizational probation and mandatory implementation of a government-approved environmental compliance plan and independent audits. In addition, the company will pay more than $3.15 million in cash through a related civil forfeiture. The $13.15 million dollar penalty is the largest financial penalty for timber trafficking under the Lacey Act and one of the largest Lacey Act penalties ever.