TIMBER traders accused of dealing in illegally logged timber face severe punishment if charges are proven.
The Timber Trade Federation is to investigate claims by environmental pressure group Greenpeace that some of its members are importing millions of tonnes of timber cut from rain forests in Papua New Guinea for use on UK building sites.
Members named in the Greenpeace report Partners in Crime: The UK timber trade, Chinese sweatshops and Malaysian robber barons in Papua New Guinea's rainforests include supply giant Wolseley and Gloucester-based importer International Plywood.
Both are TTF members and now face investigation.
If the TTF finds that any member companies have breached its responsible purchasing policy it could throw the offenders out of the federation.
Andy Roby, head of environment and corporate social responsibility at the TTF revealed that it would be meeting up with Greenpeace and member companies in a bid to pinpoint problems.
He said: 'We have asked Greenpeace to come up with specific evidence it has against our members and we will be meeting up with them to discuss the issue of illegal logging.
'We have a responsible purchasing policy, of which members are signatories.' John Sauven, campaign director at Greenpeace, called for the federation to boot out the offending companies.
He said: 'They should be expelled from the TTF. It is not good enough for them to claim they did not knowingly buy dodgy timber. They should have a more robust purchasing policy in place.' Mr Roby claimed that although the federation knew that most timber felled in Papua New Guinea was likely to have been felled illegally it would stop short of imposing a ban on members using timber cut from the area.
He said: 'We advise members on the risks of using timber from certain countries and Papua New Guinea is a high-risk county. We will not say 'No more timber from Papua New Guinea' because there will be some good suppliers among the bad.' A Greenpeace investigation tracked hardwood felled in Papua New Guinea then shipped to saw mills in China. From there it was processed into plywood and exported around the world.