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US flooring firm fined $13 mn for timber trafficking

A US flooring retailer that used timber harvested in the habitat of Siberian tigers and other endangered species was sentenced Monday to pay a record criminal fine over illegal trafficking.

Lumber Liquidators was sentenced to pay $13.2 million dollars in a federal court in Virginia, the US Justice Department said in a statement.

The department noted it was the largest financial penalty for timber trafficking under the Lacey Act, a law that bans trafficking in illegal wildlife and plant products.

Lumber Liquidators will pay $7.8 in criminal fines, $1.23 million in community service payments and nearly a million dollars in forfeited assets for its illegal importation of hardwood flooring.

Much of the illegal imports were manufactured in China from timber that had been illegally logged in Russia’s Far East, in the habitat of the last remaining Siberian tigers and Amur leopards in the world, the department said.

“By knowingly and illegally sourcing timber from vulnerable forests in Asia and other parts of the world, Lumber Liquidators made American consumers unwittingly complicit in the ongoing destruction of some of the world’s last remaining intact forests,” said Dan Ashe, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in the statement.

“Along with hastening the extinction of the highly endangered Siberian tiger and many other native species, illegal logging driven by the company’s greed threatens the many people who depend on sustainable use of these forests for food, clean water, shelter and legitimate jobs,” he said.

The sentencing came after Lumber Liquidators pleaded guilty last October with one felony count of importing goods through false statements and four misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act.