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Illegal logging suspected

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 6, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), customs has impounded a vessel in Popondetta which belongs to a Malaysian logging company.

Acting Customs Commissioner John Pomoso confirmed the apprehension of the Kifmet 16/17, a pontoon barge belonging to Unirise Limited of Malaysia.

Speaking from Vanimo last night, Mr. Pomoso said the National Forests Authority (NFA) confirmed the identity of the logging vessel, which is now at Oro Bay wharf.

"Investigations into the matter has already started which will involve the last port of entry; where the vessel came from and if there are those citizens involved in the landing the equipment before we go on to prosecute the company.

"We also would want to establish whether the vessel was cleared by customs following all processes and regulations accompanying whatever the project are in the area," Mr. Pomoso said.

The acting commissioner said Customs has the powers to revisit the decisions and will get to the root to protect the interest of the people of this nation. He said Customs has established that the Kifment 16/17 is similar to the First Round 10 barge, which was impounded at Yema Log Pond on the border of Morobe and Northern. Both are owned by Unirise Ltd, he said.

The response by PNG Customs comes after landowners lodged complaints with the National Forestry Authority, PNG Customs and other relevant organizations expressing total dissatisfaction and concerns in the manner in which the logging equipment were landed.Mr. Pomoso also warned that if the investigations reveal involvement of officers in illegally allowing the company to carry out operations in landing the equipment, they will be prosecuted under the PNG Customs Act.

The NFA confirmed yesterday that the operations permit for Unirise Limited expired in February 27 this year and there were no authorization and approval plans given to the company to land the equipment.

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