The Yilan District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday said 12 suspects have been arrested on charges of illegally logging ancient trees from Yilan County’s Datong Township (大同), after the case was exposed by the media on Monday.
Prosecutors were informed about the illegal logging last month and initiated a joint investigation with the Forestry Bureau and police, the office said.
The probe was originally scheduled to be carried out in the middle of this month, but the investigation was pushed up after the media caught wind of the illegal logging, it said.
The office said chain saws, remodeled hunting rifles, Taiwan Cypress tree tumors, as well as products made of Taiwan Cypress and Stout Camphor were found at the site where the 12 were arrested on Monday night.
The suspects will be charged with violating the Forestry Act (森林法), the Criminal Code and the Act on Controlling Guns, Ammunition and Knives (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例), it added.
Chou Chen-ping (周真坪), director of Luodong Forest’s Taipingshan Station (太平山工作站), said the logging suspects were very aggressive and “often went into the mountains with guns and hounds to warn and threaten other people.”
“We urge the court to heavily punish any repeat offenders” Luodong Forest District Office head Lin Hong-chung (林鴻忠) said, adding that “we will also review the Forestry Act to see whether modifications need to be made so that stricter punishments can be enforced.”
The Prosecutors’ Office said since a joint investigation protocol was established in 2009, 58 illegal logging rings have been broken up in the past three years, resulting in 182 arrests.
The Forestry Bureau said it encourages the public to help report cases of illegal logging by calling its 24-hour toll free lines — 0800-000930 or 0800-057930. It added that a cash reward of up to NT$3 million (US$101,00) would be given to those who provide information that leads to an arrest.
The bureau also said it would consult the Ministry of Justice about increasing the punishment for illegal logging to prevent further destruction of national forests.