The Great Timber Heist-Continued: Tax Evasion and Illegal Logging in Papua New Guinea makes public new evidence of financial misreporting and tax evasion in the logging industry in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Following the Oakland Institute's 2016 report, which alleged that financial misreporting by foreign firms resulted in nonpayment of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, the new report reveals drastic worsening of this pattern in recent years. According to the financial records, the 16 studied subsidiaries of PNG’s largest log exporter, the Malaysian Rimbunan Hijau (RH) Group, have doubled their financial losses in just six years while increasing their exports of tropical timber by over 40 percent.
The new report also analyses the effect of the progressive tax rate on log exports introduced in 2017 by the PNG government to address concerns around tax evasion. PNG’s Minister of Forests and the forest industry have argued that this new tax has brought the industry to “the brink of disaster,” resulting in “vanishing” tax revenue for the country. However, the Oakland Institute’s latest report clearly refutes these claims showing that the tax increase has generated additional fiscal revenue while contributing to an overall drop in exports in 2017.
The increase in log exports in recent years by PNG is largely the result of illegally-granted Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs), which added 5.5 million hectares of land to the ten million hectares already under active logging concession. Despite the 2014 government’s promise that all illegal deals would be canceled, to date no decisive action has been taken to stop illegal logging or return land to the people.