Nicolae Bogdan Buzaianu
Ongoing proceedings in Switzerland against a Swiss national for his alleged involvement in international crimes through commercial activities conducted together with former Gambian president, Yahya Jammeh
Type of jurisdiction
Nicolae Bogdan Buzaianu, a Swiss businessman who, through a complex network of commercial entities and the use of straw men, was allegedly jointly heading the Westwood Company Ltd. in partnership with Jammeh and involved in the exportation from the Gambia of protected wood harvested in the South Senegalese war-torn region, Casamance
Country of residence of suspect
As the case is at the investigation stage, the suspect has not yet been formally charged. However, given the occurrence of a non- international armed conflict in the Casamance region, where the timber was coming from, Buzaianu’s behavior could be qualified as pillage of natural resources amounting to a war crime.
Estimates suggest that Senegal loses the equivalent of 40’000 hectares of forest per year, several dozen hectares of which are lost due to the illegal exploitation of rosewood in Casamance. The destruction of Casamance forests is a disaster with long-term consequences such as the decrease in rainfall and the increased desertification of the region.
A large share of the trafficking and logging has been taking place in a territory which is under the control of the Mouvement des forces démocratiques de Casamance, an armed group that has been fighting the Senegalese army since the 1980s. With Jammeh as an ally, the armed group was able to monopolize the timber trade in Lower Casamance, using its profits to finance its armed struggle.
Between June 2014 and March 2017, Westwood Ltd., a Gambian company owned by entities affiliated with Buzaianu and Jammeh, allegedly exported to China over 315’000 tons of precious rosewood illegally harvested in the neighboring Casamance region (roughly equivalent to USD 163’000’000). Westwood Ltd. allegedly benefited generously from this trade, transferring its profits to individuals and companies associated with former President Jammeh and Buzaianu.
In June 2019, TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint against Buzaianu for the alleged pillaging of protected Senegalese rosewood as a war crime.
Developments in 2022
A criminal investigation was formally opened by the Office of the Attorney General against Buzaianu. In June 2022, Swiss media reported that a mutual legal assistance request had been sent from the Swiss prosecuting authorities to Gambian authorities, to facilitate the exchange of information on the case.