Iquitos court fines Melka cocoa company and sentences executives to jail

03 August 2019

The company, Cacao del Perú Norte, owned by Dennis Melka, was found to have evaded due process when, in 2012, it cleared over 2,000 hectares of forest in Tamshiyacu, in the province of Maynas, without authorisation for any large-scale agroindustrial development. Now known as Tamshi S.A.C. the enterprise was further accused of ignoring orders from the agriculture ministry to curtail its operations.

Faced by evidence from satellite imagery, executives failed to convince the court that deforestation had not occurred. On 25 July, the general manager received an eight-year prison sentence, and four-year suspended sentences were given to the agricultural engineer and the chief of operations

The question remains why this and similar cases have dragged on for so long in the domestic courts, fuelling extensive trafficking in land by bogus agricultural associations that have been set up with false land titles from corrupt officials.

Violence, including deaths, has been associated with clearance of the land of its original inhabitants. In Ucayali, the Shipibo community of Uchunya has had to seek recourse to the UN for the restitution of 7,000 hectares of community forest usurped by a company set up by Melka in 2012.

Foot-dragging by local authorities has played a part over the years, although the courts have recently sentenced the Ucayali agriculture ministry office (DRAU) officials responsible for corruption in land transfers. According to Mongabay, as many as 300,000 hectares of forest were being targeted by agricultural associations and their backers at DRAU to be converted for crops and ranching.

Greater willingness to clamp down on the widespread trafficking of forest lands may also respond to the concerns of international donors regarding lack of progress in forest conservation efforts.

 

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