Virgin forests in Central-Eastern Europe are the last remaining ones on the continent, yet they are being mercilessly torn down. Part of this multi-billion euro industry is a mafia-like system that stretches all the way from Romania to Ukraine. Austrian timber companies are right at the heart of it.
“Just watch out if you go into the forest on your own. It can be dangerous in there. Strange things can happen. Some people have never made it out again.” That is what they said to the lanky man in the glasses. He was threatening to tell all, to lift the lid on the whole system of illegally harvested timber and the trade in it. He himself was part of that system, but he was prepared to get out of it and risk everything as a result.
The Schweighofer system
The transformation of trees into boards involves a process of gigantic dimensions. Columns of articulated lorries deliver the logs to huge timber yards day and night. Here they are seized by gripper arms, measured by computer, and a worker in the driver’s cab assesses the quality of the wood. And then they are flung onto a conveyor, turned over and rotated, stripped of their bark, and fed into the sawmill machine. 40 tree trunks every