Watchdog says Vietnamese officials bribed by log smugglers

BANGKOK (AP) — An environmental watchdog group has accused Vietnamese officials of taking payoffs to ignore vast smuggling of lucrative lumber from neighboring Cambodia.

Millions of dollars in bribes have been paid by Vietnamese timber traders to both Vietnamese and Cambodian officials, said the report issued Monday by the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency.

It said the Vietnamese officials are paid off in exchange for granting import quotas for the timber and Cambodians are paid to open up logging areas and smuggling routes. The logging itself in Cambodia is often illegal, taking place in protected areas such as national parks.

Cambodia has banned the export of logs, and since early 2016 has closed its border with Vietnam to timber as well. However, Vietnam has official quotas for such imports, which are also taxed.