Verra suspends carbon credit projects after police raid in Brazil

  • Verra, the largest voluntary carbon market registry, has suspended projects targeted by federal police in the Brazilian Amazon, following an investigation by Mongabay.
  • The organization said the “extraordinary action” prevented the sale of new loans.
  • The raid came two weeks after Mongabay showed links between REDD+ projects and suspected logging fraud.
  • Verra-certified projects whose loans have been purchased by leading brands such as carbon credit broker Moss, Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL Airlines, food delivery app iFood, Itaú, one of the country’s leading banks, and international companies Toshiba, Spotify and Boeing.

Following the decision of the Federal Police, three carbon credit projects in the Brazilian Amazon were suspended Greenwashing campaign targeted leaders of supposedly “green” initiatives, suspecting links to land grabbing fraud and illegal logging.

Verra, one of the world’s largest voluntary carbon market registries and the project’s certification body, announced the decision on June 10. “Account suspension is an emergency action that means that no transactions can occur on the account, including any credits held in the account, until any identified issues or uncertainties are resolved,” Verra said.

According to the organization, the action is preventive in nature and does not involve any assessment of the people involved (the full statement can be read here).

“I believe Verra is miscertifying,” federal deputy Thiago Marrese Scarpellini, chief investigator of Operation Greenwashing, told Mongabay after the raid. “But I don’t know if it’s their fault because it’s based in the United States and I don’t know if land grabbing is happening in the United States. But we have it here. And if we are a promising market (for carbon credits), they will have to adapt to certain circumstances.

Operation Greenwashing was launched on June 5, two weeks after Mongabay published an investigation linking project owners to suspected woodwashing fraud.

According to investigators, carbon credit areas were also used to launder wood from illegally deforested areas. Photo © Bruno Kelly/Greenpeace.

The Unitor, Fortaleza Ituxi and Evergreen projects were developed by Brazilian company Carbonext and cover an area more than three times the size of New York in the southern state of Amazonas. Buyers of their credits include companies such as carbon credit broker Moss, Brazilian low-cost carrier 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, the prosecutor’s office and now the federal police stepping in, I am signaling what quality criteria we need for projects in Brazil,” Shigueo Watanabe Junior told Mongabay. He is a senior climate policy specialist at the Talanoa Institute, a Brazilian think tank focused on climate policy,

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

According to investigators, the seized public lands are valued at 820 million reais ($155 million), and the group is behind the illegal extraction of more than 1 million cubic meters of wood, the equivalent of almost 5,000 truckloads.

Banner image: Verra’s decision comes after the Greenwashing operation, in which five people were arrested in early June. Photo courtesy of the Federal Police.

Top brands buy Amazon carbon credits from suspected wood laundering scam

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