Man wanted in Romania over illegal logging, which has devastated its forests, arrested in Surrey



A MAN is facing extradition to Romania to face allegations he was connected to an alleged "timber Mafia" that is accused of destroying the country's forests.

Viorel Palaghiu, 58, was arrested in Surrey and brought before Westminster Magistrates' Court yesterday (Saturday, November 6).

The court heard he is wanted on a warrant issued by Romania for the offences of illegal logging and accessory to the offence of tree theft.

Widespread illegal logging is endangering Romania’s ancient forests, which are reportedly going at an alarming rate.

More than half of all timber logged in Romania is illegal, taken from protected areas or harvested in quantities that breaches quotas, with some forests disappearing already.

Its old-growth forests straddle the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe and are a mix of old trees and young trees which create a mosaic of habitats home to bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats.

They have survived unchanged since the end of the ice age, but are now under threat from what has been dubbed the “Timber Mafia” – criminals who some believed to operate with the blessing of the Romanian authorities.

Gabriel Paun, founder of the environmental group Romanian NGO, Agent Green, told Aljazeera: “If one tries to mess up with the interests of the forest mafia, you get in trouble and you can even die. Anything can happen."

He said over the last few years at least six forest rangers, who have tried to stop illegal logging, have been murdered, with others dying in suspicious circumstances, and there have been more than 650 attacks with knives, axes and guns.

There is no suggestion Palaghiu is involved more than the offences he faces charge for and the court heard he denies them and will contest extradition.

He was remanded in custody until Monday when he will be bailed provided a £3,000 security is paid to the court and he hands over his passport and identity documents.

The case was adjourned until later this month.