Customs officer suspended as Vietnam probes logging of protected wood

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Pieces of rare timber Fujian cypress found in Quang Nam Province. Photo provided by police Pieces of rare timber Fujian cypress found in Quang Nam Province. Photo provided by police

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A senior customs officer in Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam has been suspended pending an investigation into a massive case of illegal logging on his watch.
The local police said they seized more than 50 cubic meters of rare wood logged in protected forests on the Laos border, including nearly seven cubic meters found at the customs office at the Nam Giang border gate.
Le Trung Thinh, the office head, has been suspended for failing to report the wood or prove its legal origin.
The investigation began after some locals found logs of Fujian cypress trees hidden near a border guard station on July 9.
Officials said they are expanding the probe and would likely find more wood.
Fujian cypress is a threatened species in Vietnam, where it is considered valuable due to its aroma and exceptional weight. It is used to make art works, furniture, and charcoal.
Central Vietnam has reported the most cases of deforestation in the country, with a number of forest rangers and managers axed or demoted this year for letting the crime occur.
Nguyen Duc Luyen, vice chairman of Dak Nong Province in the Central Highlands, had said at a conference last year that Vietnam is unable to stop deforestation since illegal logging is either condoned or overlooked by authorities.

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