“The Pinhal Mafia” Fire in Pinhal de Leiria was planned a month before the tragedy – 86% of the pine forest consumed by the criminal fire

The fire that devastated 86% of Pinhal de Leiria in October 2017 was criminally caused, for economic gain. The pine forest was trapped with resin pots with pine needles inside, in order to start the flames.

The Judicial Police had already concluded that the fire was caused by criminal activity. This is a heinous crime against environmental patrimony.

The October fires caused 49 deaths and about 70 injuries in the country, in addition to destroying 1,500 homes and 500 businesses, although no deaths were recorded in this region.

Small businesses will disappear so that a few companies will become filthy rich from these fires.

There are strong “suspicions” of nepotism between the governmental agency ICNF and the loggers’ lobby.

As usual, the case was archived (filed) by the Public Prosecutor’s Office with the usual conclusions: “the crimes of maladministration, qualified damage, omission of assistance and violation of physical integrity are not verified”.

The following article is a translation. You can find the link to the original website at the end of it.

Large fire in Leiria was planned in secret meetings between loggers

The fire that consumed Pinhal de Leiria was planned a month earlier in secret meetings in a basement between loggers. Wood prices were agreed at the time, reveals a TVI24 report.

The fire that consumed 86% of the Pinhal de Leiria between October 15th and 16th last year was planned the previous month by loggers, businessmen and wood buying and selling factories, according to a TVI24 report that was shown this Friday at night. The plan was outlined in a series of meetings in a basement, where prices for the wood consumed were also established.

The Judiciary Police had already assumed that the fire that broke out in Pinhal de Leiria in October was criminal. Now, the report signed by Ana Leal reveals that “the pine forest was booby-trapped” with resin pots with pine needles inside to start the flames, as the journalist said in an interview with TVI24. This was the technique that reached 36 municipalities in the central region. Although no fatalities were recorded in the Pinhal de Leiria region,

the October fires caused 49 deaths and around 70 injuries in the country, in addition to destroying 1,500 homes and 500 businesses.

There were meetings to plan the fire and agree on the price of wood

The TVI24 source was a man who was invited to participate in these meetings, which took place in the basement of a restaurant and where at least four of the largest wood companies in the region participated. The plan to set fire to the pine forest began to be created in mid-September, but it was only two weeks before that the participants met. According to the man interviewed, “there was a meeting to agree on the price of wood and not to offer anything for the State lots. Because wood is very expensive, you know? If you don’t buy it from the State, it has to sell the wood for almost nothing. The source also guarantees that “all loggers are in”, that is, they participated in the meeting.

Leading this plan would be a businessman who “is even expanding the yard”, says the source of the report. According to the source, this businessman will have in his possession 100 thousand tons of burned wood in October alone. The report also talks about a company that, a month before, was already be counting on the fire and therefore received a tranche of 500 thousand euros to buy burned wood. According to the document from Caixa de Crédito de Leiria to which TVI had access, there was in fact a transfer to that company on October 25th, which was used to buy two trucks, two trailers and a dragging machine. Between October and December, this company purchased 166 thousand tons of burned wood. In the same period of 2016, the volume drops to 55 thousand.

Before the fire that consumed the pine forest, there were at least 50 failed attempts to set the forest on fire.

According to the report “Máfia do Pinhal”, the fire that spread through the pine forest started in Légua “was criminal and began to be planned on the 12th”. Resin vases were scattered in areas without resinous pine forests and glass and plastic bottles wrapped in silver with “a black liquid” combustible inside, TVI24 sources guarantee. Everything would have been thought of so that it would break out in the afternoon: this way the fire would take on uncontrollable proportions during the night, when firefighting planes could not act. According to a logger approached by Ana Leal, the fire “burned at the right time for those doing business”.

The business continues today. The State has not yet put up for auction almost any percentage of the million burned tons it has on hand: the first auction took place in December and none of the major wood buyers purchased raw material. So far only 3% of the wood burned has been sold. But this is a race against time: in two months the wood will turn blue and in July it will have already gained bugs, so it will no longer be of interest to the market. Questioned by TVI, the president of the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests says that this could be a good deal: “If the State put all the wood up for sale, what would happen to the private sector?”

According to TVI sources, “all the big people will make millions from this and all the little ones will be melted! Not now! Will be a while! All these people are going to die, why? Because, with the lack of raw materials that will exist, they will be completely crushed and have no chance of entering the market. Most of them are afraid!”

In Leiria, the cities most affected by the fires that consumed the Pinhal de Leiria were Alcobaça, where the fire broke out, Marinha Grande, where most of the Pinhal is located, and Pombal. The fires on October 15 destroyed 190,090 hectares of forest, which corresponds to 45% of the area burned last year.

More related news

Pinhal Mafia: there are suspicions of cronyism between the ICNF and the logger lobby

Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests accused of fraud in a burned wood auction.

The ICNF is being accused of fraud in a public auction of wood burned in last year’s fires. At issue is a lot sold at public auction, which was allegedly tampered with after being sold to the logger who made the complaint, raising suspicions that there had been favoritism to the so-called pine forest mafia.

A logger reported to TVI that the Institute had, after selling a batch of wood, placed white marks on several trees so that they would not be felled.

Whenever a lot is sold there are trees that are not part of the same lot because they have not been completely affected. The businessman has proof that, two months after purchasing the lot, the ICNF was on site marking trees that were not there at the time the auction took place.

The logger visited the site on July 10 of this year, twelve days after the auction. The photos taken at the site, which were sent to the Ministry of Agriculture, compared with others taken in August show that there are new trees that appear marked. The businessman says that it was on August 2nd that ICNF officials were on site, weeks after the auction.

A source linked to the process confirmed to TVI that there was a rescheduling after the sale.

The registration book is clear and says that “trees with white paint are not part of the lot”, but the institute claims that only trees with ax marks can be cut down.

An ax mark that would indicate the trees that are to be cut, but the specifications say nothing about this type of ax mark.

The institute itself admits that it did not have the capacity to make all the marks in white paint to prohibit cutting. However, it requires the buyer to check the ax marks one by one, a needle in a haystack among more than 4 thousand pine trees.

If the logger detects anomalies, he cannot make any complaints after having purchased the wood from the State, but it was precisely after the public auction that the ICNF made new marks.

The Public Ministry already has the evidence and the GNR is investigating the complaint.

More related news

Public Ministry orders filing of complaints against the ICNF and uncertainties caused by the fire in Pinhal de Leiria

Archiving order concludes that the crimes of harmful administration, qualified damage, omission of assistance and negligent offense to physical integrity do not exist.

The investigation began with a complaint against the organizations and their respective officials responsible for managing the Leiria National Forest since 2003, a complaint filed a month and a half after the fire in October 2017 that destroyed 86% of the so-called Pinhal do Rei, later complemented by several additions, in one of which the author (a resident of the municipality of Marinha Grande) asked the Public Ministry to also investigate the actions of the Municipal Council of Marinha Grande and EDP.

In question, possible crimes of harmful administration, qualified damage, omission of assistance and negligent offense to physical integrity, which targeted the former National Forestry Authority and the current Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF) and directors.

Another complaint was added to the investigation, presented by five forest owners, against doubts, in which they claim joint damage in the amount of one and a half million euros, from a burned forest area, covering 230 hectares.

More than three years later, there is a decision. The Public Prosecutor’s Office concludes that no criminal activity has been demonstrated and considers that none of the crimes occurred.

The resident of Marinha Grande who made the complaint tells JORNAL DE LEIRIA that he is considering requesting hierarchical intervention (analysis by another magistrate from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, hierarchically superior), while the lawyer representing the forest owners says that he should not request the opening of an investigation, reserving other steps for civil proceedings.

In the archiving order, the Public Prosecutor’s Office begins by arguing that the fire that hit Pinhal de Leiria had demonstrably in its genesis intentional human action investigated in an independent investigation (in which an elderly woman from Burinhosa was tried in the Alcobaça Court, being acquitted) and combined with an exceptional and adverse weather situation, felt throughout the country.

Remember, on the other hand, that anyone who, intentionally violating control standards or economic rules of rational management, causes significant property damage to an economic unit in the public or cooperative sector is guilty of the crime of harmful administration. And he adds that the ICNF cannot be confused with a public company and that those responsible for the conservation and management of the Leiria National Forest, including, first and foremost, the directors of the ICNF, and/or anyone acting under their orders and instructions, are not legally capable of being agents of this crime. Finally, to verify harmful administration, direct intent is necessary, which results from the requirement of intentional infringement, and according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the investigation did not collect elements to support this.

Qualified damage is excluded as it requires intentional action – the Public Prosecutor’s Office considers that it is not possible to state that there was action aimed at damaging results on the part of the ICNF or others, responsible for the conservation of the Leiria National Forest. And he argues that this crime can only be committed against the perpetrator of the fire.

Regarding the crime of omission of assistance, related to the failure to mobilize ICNF vehicles to fight the fire, a fact revealed at the time by the commander of the Volunteer Firefighters of Marinha Grande, the Public Prosecutor’s Office states that sufficient evidence was not collected that support it.

In relation to the crime of negligent offense to physical integrity, especially the injuries suffered by firefighters and the risk run, the Public Prosecutor’s Office understands that it is not possible to sustain human action by those responsible for the conservation of the Leiria National Forest, which would cause, even if negligently, such a result.

A country where criminals and the powerful are systematically protected to the detriment of victims and its citizens is the definition of a dictatorship, which is why Portugal should leave the EU.


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