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ITTO governing body meets in Yokohama amidst grave crisis – Bruno Manser Fund demands full transparency and legal action against former Executive Director Emanuel ZeMeka and his staff over $18 million investment losses

YOKOHAMA, Japan – Representatives of the International Tropical Timber Organization’s (ITTO) 73 member countries are meeting in Yokohama amidst the organization’s gravest crisis in its 30 year history. ITTO was established in 1986 under the auspices of the United Nations to promote sustainable tropical forestry and reconcile forest conservation with the timber trade.

Not only has the organization achieved little in comparison with its ambitious goals but is itself facing a major governance crisis. For two consecutive years, ITTO’s delegates have failed to elect a new Executive Director to replace its long-term collaborator Emanuel ZeMeka who left the organization under a cloud.

Last month, the organization’s oversight committee silently released a report that sheds light on the extent of the organization’s losses due to high-risk investments in fraudulent offshore funds in Cayman and Barbados. According to ITTO, $18 million in donations from 12 member countries were lost, with Japan ($11.4 mn), the United States ($1.3mn), Switzerland (1mn) Australia (0.9mn) and the European Commission (0.5mn) being the most affected donors. As a consequence, ITTO had to stop all its project activities in tropical forest conservation and sustainable forestry as of June 2016.

The ITTO report states that an independent investigation had found no evidence for illicit arrangements by former staff members with the investment advisor responsible for the “catastrophic losses for ITTO“ but stops short of giving details on how and by whom the higly unusual fund transfers to the Caribbean had been authorized.

When contacted by the Bruno Manser Fund, Steven Johnson, ITTO’s Officer-in-Charge, stated that the independent investigation was not approved for public release by the Oversight Committee “primarily due to on-going legal measures“.

The Bruno Manser Fund requestst that the full investigation report and all related audits be published and that ITTO take legal action against former Executive Director Emanuel ZeMeka and any former and current staff responsible for the losses.
Sources used for this release:

ITTO – Report to the Chairperson of Council submitted by the Oversight Committee extended under Decision 2(LI.1) to oversee the implementation of ITTC Decision 4(LI), 24 October 2016 (attached)

For more information, please contact:
Bruno Manser Fonds Socinstrasse 37 4051 Basel Switzerland www.bmf.ch

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