MOSCOW, June 5 (RIA Novosti) – Eight members of an illegal logging gang have been detained in Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East, for cutting timber worth an estimated 30 million rubles ($939,000), local police said on Wednesday.
“The organized criminal group, led by the founder and director general of a large company, were in action for a year,” police said in a statement.
The criminal group, consisting of Armenian and Azerbaijani nationals, supplied the illegally cut timber to China. A local forestry official is suspected of have been involved in the group’s activities and have warned his accomplices about impending inspections, police said.
If convicted, the suspects face between 12 and 20 years in jail.
Illegal logging in Russia’s Far Eastern Khabarovsk Territory has cost the state over 500 million rubles (about $17 million) since 2010, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia said in January.
Over 12,000 cubic meters of timber has been illegally logged in the region, the organization said, despite more than 600 joint raids by forest rangers, police, and environmentalists since 2010.
Apart from the direct commercial damage caused by lost revenue to the state, illegal logging destroys the habitat of endangered species like the Amur tiger and affects high-value trees, including the protected Korean cedar, WWF Russia said.