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The Serfor case: Who support the dismissal of the Serfor chief?

When the Executive decided to remove Luis Gonzáles-Zúñiga from office, the forest managers of the regional governments of Loreto, Ucayali and Madre de Dios spoke in unison in support of the measure. What they did not say is that two of them are involved in investigations for illegal trafficking of timber forest products and for functional liability. Until February of this year, the Prosecutor's Office requested four years in prison for one of them.

By Servindi Research Team

Servindi, june 12, 2020.- On Friday, June 5, through Supreme Resolution 002-2020-MINAGRI, the President of the Republic, Martín Vizcarra, and the Minister of Agriculture (Minagri), Jorge Montenegro, decided to suddenly cease their functions as executive director of the Service National Forest and Wildlife (Serfor) to Luis Alberto Gonzáles-Zúñiga, who had come to office in January last year after winning a public tender.

That same day, Gonzáles-Zúñiga in converation with Servindi narrated that on Thursday the 4th, a day before his dismissal, he had held a virtual meeting with Minagri officials where a new proposal on the land use change regulation was discussed. He was against it because the proposal increased deforestation risks in the Amazon. "That was the straw that broke the camel’s back”, he said then.

More than fifty civil society institutions and indigenous organizations expressed their rejection of the official's dismissal; however, the forest managers of the regional governments of Loreto, Ucayali and Madre de Dios issued a statement supporting the Executive's decision.

These are officials Robert Nishida Añez (Madre de Dios), Marcial Pezo Armas (Ucayali) and Kenji Terán Piña (Loreto). Servindi investigated their background and was able to learn, through prosecution sources and collected data, that Pezo Armas and Terán Piña were investigated on several occasions for crimes of illegal trafficking in timber forest products and for functional liability.

In addition to these prosecution investigations, Pezo Armas was related at the time to the Saweto case and was also investigated by the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic for supporting the delivery of wood extraction permits with technical reports that contained false and inaccurate information.

In the case of Terán Piña, his other background ranges from being accused of preparing false reports of supervision of fields that would have allowed the laundering of wood of illegal origin, to a complaint currently open in the prosecution for sexual harassment at work.

ILLEGALITY. The Financial Intelligence Unit concludes that at least 60% of wood production in Peru has an illegal origin / Photo: Andina

Marcial Pezo: The official for whom the prosecution requested four years in prison

Forest engineer Marcial Pezo Armas is not an unknown official in Ucayali. Between 2011 and 2014, he was also in charge of the forest management of this region. It was during this period that the leaders of the Alto Tamaya Saweto border community arrived to his office to denounce the presence of timber traffickers in their territory.

According to a report by OjoPúblico, Edwin Chota, one of the indigenous leaders, arrived there in 2013 to report that the wood illegally extracted from his community had entered a sawmill, where the tree trunks are transformed. Despite the complaint, the officials in the area led by Pezo Armas illegally authorized the landing of this cargo.

Due to other events that occurred during that administration, the prosecution decided to include Pezo Armas in four investigations related to the illegal granting of authorizations for logging, according to OjoPúblico.

One of those processes, started in 2015 for the crime of functional liability and false information, was in the accusatory stage as of February this year. The prosecution requests four years in prison for Marcial Pezo.

Article N° 314 of the Penal Code relates this crime to the activities carried out by a public official who irregularly «authorizes or pronounces favorably on the granting or renewal of authorization, license, concession, permit or other enabling right in favor of the work or activity».

The other three files were initiated between 2017 and 2019, and were in preliminary proceedings on the same date. Two of them are for alleged crimes of functional irresponsibility and false information, and the other for illegal trafficking in timber forest products.

In January 2019, Marcial Pezo Armas (left) was reappointed as Ucayali forestry director. The designation was endorsed by Governor Francisco Pezo Torres (right). / Source: OjoPúblico

OjoPúblico also identified that, in 2016, the investigative body of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic found administrative responsibilities against Pezo Armas, in his capacity as executive director of forestry, for delivering timber extraction permits between 2012 and 2013.

In that first instance, the directorial resolution found that the technical reports that authorized the felling of trees contained false and inaccurate information.

Along with Pezo Armas, Roger Toullier Reátegui and Juan José Bedoya Ijuma were found responsible, in their capacity as manager of the permit area and technical field personnel, respectively. All three belonged to the Ucayali Forest Executive Directorate.

The defendants appealed the resolution and a year later, in March 2017, the Superior Court of Administrative Responsibilities of the Controllership acquitted Pezo and Toullier of the charges, reaffirming only the sanction of disqualification to work in the public sector for four years against Bedoya Ijuma.

LAUNDERING. Illegal wood production is usually "laundered" with fraudulent documentation generated by the corruption of authorities and dealers / Photo: actualidadambiental.pe

Kenji Terán: Investigado por tráfico ilegal y acusado de elaborar informes falsos

Servindi was able to identify that the current Regional Manager of Forest Development and Wildlife of Loreto, Kenji Terán Piña, records four investigations in the Specialized Prosecuting Units in Environmental Matters (FEMA) in this region.

Three of these processes are related to the crimes of illegal trafficking in timber forest products and were started in 2010.

The fourth process that is in the preliminary stage began in 2019 and includes Terán Piña and two other workers for their alleged illegal conduct as officials of the Loreto Regional Government, in the issuance of abbreviated forest concession titles. All the processes have the Peruvian State as the victim.

All the processes have the Peruvian State as the victim.

Photo: Kenji Terán records four investigations in the prosecution. Three of them related to the crime of illegal trafficking in timber forest products.

But Terán Peña not only appears in the prosecution records. A comprehensive 2012 report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) exposed a series of environmental crimes around the world, and among those responsible, accused Terán Peña as the author of three false reports of field supervision that they would have allowed the laundering of wood of illegal origin.

One of these technical reports prepared by Terán Piña on December 23, 2009 was the basis for the Loreto regional forestry authority to approve, five days later, the Annual Operational Plan (POA) 05 in the case of the Productores Forestales Atacuari SAC concession.

This POA authorized the use of 215 cedar trees with a total volume of 1,232.494 m3. The Extraction Balance indicated that the company extracted exactly 1,232,459 m3 of cedar.

Terán Piña had supposedly carried out the previous eye inspection in the Sumac Allpa Native Community only a few days before. However, when the brigade of the Directorate General of Forestry and Wild Fauna (DGFFS) then made the inspection - a job that took 12 days, although Terán Piña apparently managed to do his eye verification in less time - found that there were no record of the alleged trees felled and, worse still, that there were no recent indications of forest exploitation.

«[…] Of a total of 237 trees of the species Cedrela odorata declared in the POA and which have been the object of verification, 236 trees do not exist physically in the field in the UTM coordinates declared in POA 05 and the single tree [found] felling […] has a DBH [Diameter at breast height] less than the legal minimum […]. No recent indications exist of forest harvesting […] It is suspect that the volume transported was illegal of origin », refers to the report "The Laundering Machine" of the EIA.

Box X: False Pre-Verifications in Loreto / Source: Report "The Launderiing Machine" of the Environmental Investigation Agency, p.47

The same occurred in the other two reports that were prepared by Terán Piña in September and December 2009. In the first case, his report made after making an alleged on-site verification to the Valera SAC Forest Concession, reported 38 usable trees in the field. This information was "completely inconsistent" with the supervision that was later made by a representative of the Agency for the Supervision of Forest Resources and Wildlife (Osinfor), who, throughout his entire journey, did not show any individual cedar in any been in either stump or standing.

Later, the concessionaire would admit to the Osinfor supervisor that not only this report had been false, but in fact, all the information contained in POA 4 was fictitious.

What is serious is that the non-existent “usable trees” had been included in POA 4 in favor of the concession. Later, the concessionaire would admit to the Osinfor supervisor that not only this report had been false, but in fact, all the information contained in POA 4 was fictitious: the census, the measurements, the georeferencing data. But by then, the concessionaire had already illegally mobilized 9,145 m3 of wood, including 831 m3 of cedar.

Photo: Report prepared by Terán Piña is composed of "25 pages of pure fiction" according to Osinfor. Source: Report "The Laundering Machine" of the Environmental Investigation Agency, p.39

Despite this background, Terán Piña became the Regional Manager of Forest Development and Wildlife of Loreto. However, in November 2019, he was separated from the charge after a complaint of workplace sexual harassment against him was made public.

On October 18, 2019, Maricielo Arévalo Pinedo reported that Terán Piña had been harassing her while she was working as a consultant in support of the management he directed. When the news broke out in the press, Terán was removed from office, but two months later, on January 7, 2020 - and with the investigation of harassment open -, the regional governor Elisban Ochoa Sosa, reinstated him in management, a position considered as a post of confidence.

Informed of what had happened, on January 10, the ex-worker sent a letter to the regional governor expressing her concern over the restitution and giving an account of the complaint opened at the Fourth Corporate Criminal Provincial Prosecutor's Office.

On January 12, through the Technical Secretary for Administrative Procedures, the regional government replied in an official letter to Maricielo Arévalo, indicating that he had three business days to present his complaints about the complaint "in order to have a better overview of the acts".

On February 17, the ex-worker responded to the document by means of a new official letter stating that, since she was the aggrieved and the official the accused, it was he who should request the corresponding releases. The regional government did not respond to her again and with the arrival of COVID-19 in Peru, her case was stopped in the prosecution.

Photo: Letter presented by Maricielo Arévalo to the Loreto Regional Government on January 10, 2020.

Colophon

In an explanatory report published on Thursday 11 by the Ministry of Agriculture, this portfolio denies that behind the departure of Luis Gonzáles-Zúñiga there has been any kind of interest from illegal sectors and, on the contrary, ensures that what exists in the Serfor it is a "lack of articulation with the different actors in the forestry sector".

Are these the officials with whom the government demands to be articulated? Can authorities investigated for environmental crimes coordinate with the institutions that are in charge of controlling and preventing the same crimes for which they are investigated?

The highest political authorities that support this dismissal - in addition to these regional authorities - will have to explain the reasons for this measure, something that will clearly end up being impossible.

 

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