According to multiple media reports, the federal raid on two of Lumber Liquidators' Virginia locations last month has been linked to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
The Washington-based environmental advocacy group spent three years mounting its case against the retailer, claiming it purchased wood from protected forests in eastern Russia through a Chinese-owned supplier. The forests in question are home to the endangered Siberian tiger.
"Illegal logging is having unprecedented environmental, social and economic impacts in the Russian Far East, threatening indigenous communities and the last remaining Siberian tiger habitats in the world," said EIA executive director Alexander von Bismarck in a statement. "The illegal trade in wood also harms the billion dollar forest products industry in the United States. We are encouraged that the US government appears to be responding to the catastrophic levels of illegal logging around the world and continues to lead the international effort to stop the trade in stolen wood."
According to the Wall Street Journal, the EIA traveled to the Russian saw mills belonging to Suifenhe Xingjia Economic and Trade Co., one of the retailer's suppliers, pretending to be potential buyers. They videotaped the ensuing conversations, in which the exeuctives openly admitted to their use of illegal logging to provide cheap products to Western retailers - as well as to the fact that Lumber Liquidators was aware of these origins. The allegations have not been independently confirmed.
The EIA has reportedly confirmed that it supplied feds with the report prior to the raid. Additionally, an unnamed source told NBC12 that he found Homeland Security's Operation Plan in a Target parking lot in Virginia. According to the man, who referred to himself as "Eric," the plan involved collecting emails and documents that could prove the charges against the company.
Though the investigation’s affidavit and search warrants remain sealed, arrests have yet to be made, and it's reportedly business at usual for Lumber Liquidators.
If the retailer is found guilty, it would stand in violation of the Lacey Act, a 1900 conservation act which was amended in 2008 to ban the trade of illegal timber and wood products.
The EIA was responsible for the first report that tracked illegal wood from the Russian Far East through China to the United States, which was published in 2007.
Lumber Liquidators has yet to respond to HCN's requests for comment.