21 February 2014

Liberia: Former FDA Boss, Others Indicted

The Grand Jurors of Montserrado County have indicted the former Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Moses Wogbeh and several former officials of the FDA and others with Economy Sabotage,

Criminal Conspiracy, Forgery or Counterfeiting Obtaining And Deceptive Writings Obstruction of Government By Public Servant in connection with the much publicized Private Use Permits (PUPs) saga.

The former FDA officials and others indicted along with Mr. Wogbeh are: John Kantor, former Technical Manager, JangarKamara former Manager for Commercial Forestry (FDA), Cllr. Benedict Sagbeh, former In- House Legal Counsel, Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Augustine B.M Johnson, former GIS Manager & Expert, Forestry Development Authority, TorwanYantay, former Acting GIS Manager Forestry Development Authority, (FDA), David Blayee, former County Surveyor , Grand Bassa County, Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) and Maxwell Gwee former Director of Cartography, Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, all of the City of Monrovia, Montserrado County, Liberia.

According to the indictment, a copy of which is in possession of this paper, the Grand Jurors of Montserrado County say they find more probably than not, that, Moses Wogbeh, former FDA Managing Director and JangarKamara, former Manager, Commercial Forestry(FDA), Cllr.

Benedict Sagbeh, former In House Legal Counsel of FDA Mr. John Kantor, former Technical Manager of FDA, Augustine B. M. Johnson, former Manager GIS of FDA, TorwanYantay former Acting Manager for Geo Information System of FDA, David Blayee, former County Surveyor, Grand Bassa County, of the Ministry of Lands Mines &Energy, of the City of Monrovia, Republic of Liberia, and Maxwell Gwee, former Director of Cartography, Ministry of Lands Mines & Energy did conspire to, and did do and commit the crimes of Economic Sabotage and Criminal Conspiracy, in violation of Chapter 15, Subchapter F, Section 15.80(a)(b)(c) and Chapter 10, Section 10.4(1)(2)(3)(4) respectively of the New Penal Law of Liberia, Title 26, Liberian Codes and Chapter 18, Section 18.9(b)(c)"Economic Sabotage"of the National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL)(2006).

The indictment recalls that between April 2010 that the herein defendants did knowingly conspire to defraud the Government of Liberia of revenue, by facilitating the wrongful and illegal issuance of up to Sixty (61) PUPs that authorized commercial loggings operations on nearly 2.5 million hectares of land area of Liberia.

The indictment further recalls that between April 2010 up to and including December 2011, the Co-Defendants Moses Wogbeh, Benedict Sagbeh, John Kantor, TorwanYantay and Augustine B.M. Johnson knowingly, recklessly, and purposefully conspired and facilitated the issuance of, and caused to be issued, up to Fifty Six (56) Private Use Permits (Licenses), over community deeded forest lands which are indicative of Community Forest Land that by definition are governed and regulated by the Community Rights Law(2009), knowing fully well that Private Use Permits (PUPs) should only be issued to private landowners or their privies, in contravention of Sections 5.6(d) and 18.9(b) of the National Forestry Reform Law (2006), and 2.3(b) of the Community Rights Law(2009), thereby depriving communities of Revenue and the Government of Liberia of land rental which it would have been entitled to had the license been issued under the Community Rights Law (2009) specifically in consonance with Sections 3.1 and 6.5 of the Community Rights Law (2009).

Among other things, the indictment adds that in contravention of Section 5.6(d)(v) of the National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL)(2006), which requires that a Private Use Permit (PUP), is issued only if the applicant "has complied with all legal requirements for Environmental Impact Assessments, Co-Defendants Moses Wogbeh, John Kantor, TorwanYantay, Benedict Sagbeh, clothed with the authority of ensuring that all Forest Resources and Private Use Permits are issued consistent with law, and with the authority to issue Private Use Permits, "knowingly, recklessly, and purposefully recommended the issuance of, facilitated the issuance of, and did issue or caused to be issued, 61 Private Use Permits (PUPs) without the applicants first satisfying the legal requirements for Environmental Impact Assessment in contravention of Sections 5.6(d)(v) and 18.9(b)of the National Forestry Reform Law(2006)" .

Meanwhile, the indictment avers that because of the Defendants "blatant abuse" of their offices and violation of the several provisions of the National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL)(2006) and the Community Rights Law(2009), the Government of Liberia(GOL) has suffered a loss in revenue of over US$6,000,000 (United States Dollars Six Million ) which would have been generated from land rental had the Permits been issued under the Community Rights Law, and amounts generated by holders of PUPs under fraudulent and fictitious deeds, thereby defrauding the Private Prosecutrix and the Government and people of Liberia, and knowingly creating the opportunity for PUP holders to defraud the Government and people of Liberia.

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