Spies. Lies. Lumber. Taiga King reveals how European firms fed a Russian tycoon's billion-dollar illegal logging scam.Continue reading
Alexander Pudovkin is the Taiga King. The 59-year-old boss of timber giant BM Group, Pudovkin has overseen one of Russia's largest logging scandals. Loggers used their powers to plunder precious taiga forests home to brown bears, wolves and lynx, harvesting illegal wood with a retail value exceeding €870 million ($1 billion). Much of the suspect timber was destined for Europe.
Earthsight's year-long investigation, Taiga King, charts the rise and extraordinary fall of the BM Group empire and how a botched sawmill project in far eastern Russia, showered with forests and funds through corrupt deals, brought Pudovkin's house of cards crashing down and secret service agents to his door.
Prosecutors say his sawmill venture illegally logged 600,000 cubic metres of wood – that would fill London's Royal Albert Hall nearly seven times. Processed into finished products, the wood, mainly sought-after Dahurian larch, has a street value exceeding €870 million ($1 billion).
The scandal led to criminal cases and arrests in Russia. Our investigation lays bare the bribery, fraud and institutional failings which kept Pudovkin and BM Group's sawmill swindle in business.
In Taiga King we expose how despite strict EU import laws, European companies purchased more than 100,000 tonnes of suspect lumber from BM Group over the years - and how many firms continued to do so even after news of the scandal broke.
The report, which can be read below, was covered by several international media outlets including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Tagesschau and Mongabay.