Brazil Environment Minister Investigated on Suspicion of Illegal Timber Exports

Brazil’s Supreme Court on Wednesday authorized an investigation into Environmental Minister Ricardo Salles and members of his agency on suspicion of running a timber trafficking ring that sent illegal exports to the United States and Europe.In a statement, the Federal Police said the court issued 35 search-and-seizure warrants carried out by 160 federal officers in the country’s Federal District and in São Paulo and Pará states.The police statement says the court also ordered several officials suspended from their duties at Brazil’s Environment Ministry and its administrative arm, the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, known as IBAMA. IBAMA chief Eduardo Bim was among the officials suspended. The environmental minister was not.Media reports say investigations began in January, based on information obtained from foreign authorities reporting possible misconduct by Brazilian public servants in timber exporting.Salles has been one of the most controversial figures in far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s government. The environmental minister has overseen a surge of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest since taking the post in 2019, and activists accuse him of dismantling Brazil’s environmental protection programs.When confronted by reporters about the raids earlier in the day, Salles denied any wrongdoing. He said that there was no substance to the accusations and that the investigation would demonstrate the environment ministry and IBAMA “have always sought to act according to the rules.”Salles has been in negotiations with the Biden administration in the U.S., seeking international funding for efforts to protect Brazil’s Amazon rainforests. President Joe Biden directly called on Brazil to take more action. 

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