Verra halts carbon credit projects after police raid in Brazil

  • Verra, the largest voluntary market registry, has suspended carbon projects targeted by federal police in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • The “extraordinary measure” prevents the sale of new loans, the organization explained.
  • The raid came two weeks after Mongabay exposed links between the REDD+ projects and an alleged deforestation fraud.
  • Verra certified projects whose certificates were purchased by top brands such as carbon broker Moss, Brazilian low-cost airline GOL Airlines, food delivery app iFood, Itaú, one of the country’s leading banks, and international companies Toshiba, Spotify and Boeing.

Three emissions rights projects in the Brazilian Amazon region were stopped at the instigation of the federal police. Greenwashing operation The leaders of supposedly “green” initiatives were targeted because they were allegedly linked to a scam involving land grabbing and illegal deforestation.

Verra, one of the world’s largest voluntary carbon market registries and the project’s certifier, announced the decision on June 10. “An account suspension is an extraordinary measure that means that no transactions can take place on the account, including with the funds held in the account, until any identified issues or ambiguities are resolved,” Verra explained.

According to the organization, the action is a preventive measure and does not represent an assessment of those involved (read the complete statement here).

“I believe that Verra is doing the certification wrong,” federal deputy Thiago Marrese Scarpellini, chief investigator of the greenwashing operation, told Mongabay after the raid. “But I don’t know if it’s their fault, because they are based in the United States, and I don’t know if there is land grabbing in the United States. But we have it here. And if we are a promising market (for emissions rights), they will have to adapt to certain circumstances here.”

The greenwashing operation was launched on June 5, two weeks after Mongabay published an investigation linking the projects’ owners to an alleged timber laundering scam.

According to investigators, the emission rights areas were also used to launder wood from illegally logged forests. Image © Bruno Kelly/Greenpeace.

The Unitor, Fortaleza Ituxi and Evergreen projects were developed by the Brazilian company Carbonext and cover an area more than three times the size of New York City in the south of the state of Amazonas. Buyers of their certificates include companies such as carbon credit broker Moss, Brazilian low-cost airline GOL Airlines, food delivery app iFood, Itaú, one of the country’s leading banks, and international companies Toshiba, Spotify and Boeing.

“When I see the headlines in the newspaper that the public prosecutor’s office and now the federal police are getting involved, they signal what quality criteria we expect from projects in Brazil,” Shigueo Watanabe Junior told Mongabay. He is a senior climate policy expert at the Talanoa Institute, a Brazilian think tank that deals with climate policy.

During the operation, five people were arrested, including Ricardo Stoppe, the group’s leader. Federal police seized assets worth 1.6 billion reais ($300 million), as well as two planes, luxury cars and several pieces of jewelry.

According to investigators, the stolen public lands are worth R$820 million ($155 million) and the group is behind the illegal removal of more than one million cubic meters of wood, equivalent to almost 5,000 truckloads.

Banner image: Verra’s decision followed the greenwashing operation that resulted in five arrests in early June. Image courtesy of Federal Police.

Top brands buy Amazon carbon credits from alleged wood laundering scam

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