Dutch Swiss guy offers $47 million Brazilian rainforest as collateral for Spanish solar panel project.

Dutch Swiss guy offers $47 million Brazilian rainforest as collateral for Spanish solar panel project.

Sometimes in your life you come across something that makes you rub your eyes. In my case, that happened in 2019. I met a Dutch gentleman with a Swiss-Brazilian past. It was in Rotterdam, on the Nieuwe Maas… It was a business proposal. Participation in a “global start up”, and it served a good cause. There was an ambitious plan. In a few years this should lead to worldwide expansion and listing on one or more international stock exchanges. The IPO would soon involve hundreds of millions of dollars.

During our conversation, my interlocutor made some startling statements. One of these concerned the rainforest in Brazil. He said he owned 435,000 hectares of tropical rainforest and three ethanol factories down there.


The southern part of Brazil's largest state - Amazonas is one of the most deforested regions in the entire Amazon. In the vicinity of the town of Apui (22,000 inhabitants), with an area of 5.5 million hectares 30% larger than the whole of the Netherlands, lays the "Fazenda Boa Fé". Not a farm, as you might think, but a tropical rainforest. It covers a large part of the forest between two rivers: the Guariba and the Aripuana, 435,000 hectares in total. It includes the “Sustainable Development Reserve” on the banks of the Aripuana river, destined for sustainable development, focusing mainly on opportunities for the original inhabitants of the area.

regenwoud in het amazonegebiedThe Fazenda Boa Fé is part of the "Mosaic of Apui", a protected area of 2.5 million hectares just north to the state of "Mato Grosso", and is regulated in a management plan that took shape under President Lula in the first decade of this century. The establishment of this zone was mainly aimed at stopping the advancing cattle- farming from Mato Grosso.

Despite this, 150,000 hectares of Apui Municipality's rainforest has been lost to – largely – illegal logging and arson in the last 10 years. Before that, the area had suffered a number of serious incidents such as the violent expulsion of the uncontacted Kawahiva tribe from their natural habitat, the destruction of copaiba trees around the Aripuana, depriving the inhabitants from their main source of income (copaïba resin, and the oil extracted from it), the construction of illegal roads by loggers, and the placing of signs denying residents access to their natural habitat.


Originally, 40% of the entire mosaic was claimed by a cooperative of 1,036 members. They operated from the town of Colniza in Mato Grosso, just south of the Mosaic. Colniza is the most violent city in all of Brazil with 50 murders per year on just 25,000 inhabitants, and almost all of those murders are related to "land issues". The cooperative was involved in almost all abuses in the Mosaic in those years.

In addition, the cooperative was guilty of illegally selling lots in the protected area. Members paid dues, that were used to cover fees for lawyers who “legalized” land in the Mosaic on demand. And that is not possible… Although "squatting"" unoccupied land in Brazil is allowed, and you can also officially register it (in the so-called CAR registration), the land does not become property in this way. Moreover you may not utilize the land - in any manner - without licenses, granted by authorized government organizations.


When the management plan for the region was drawn up, the land was redistributed. The Fazenda – which was part of the former grounds of the cooperative – came into the hands of a small company “Boa Fé Participacoes Ltda”, (Boa Fé) in a suburb of Sao Paolo, 4,000 kilometers from the location of the Fazenda. That happened on the basis of an old property document from 1912.

Ownership of the lands, however, was not clear from the document. It is quite common in Brazil that lands are allocated on the basis of such a kind of old - often manipulated - document. The Brazilians have a word for it: “GRILAGEM”, and see it as a form of land grabbing.

At that time, that small company (Boa Fé) is almost 50% in the hands of the Liechtenstein company “Natural Resources Development” (NRD), which is under Dutch management. The remaining 50% is indirectly controlled by a Brazilian lawyer who was previously associated with the cooperative and who represented it in the negotiations with the Municipality of Apuí. The same lawyer was indicted in 2007 for building an illegal road in the Mosaic and was involved in several incidents involving logging activities in the Barreirinha municipality in the northeast of the state.

Later on, NRD would also get hold of almost the entire remaining half. The “property” is valued at tens of millions of dollars, and transferred to a Caribbean tax haven.


In August 2010, the same land was offered by another Dutchman through a Swiss company as collateral for a solar panel project in Cadiz (Spain). Thanks to an ingenious construction, through a Hungarian listed fund, that project is also controlled by the fund in the Caribean, with a few Dutch businessmen in charge.

The affair prompted me to write my book “The Tocantins Forest". If you want to know how this goes on, and what's going on today in the Fazenda Boa Fé and the rainforests of Liberia, you can read it there. You can read the press release announcing the transaction here... - ENDS -