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In Prison for ‘decade’

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FDA Moses Wogbeh NDFive convicted Liberian officials will face ten-year imprisonment each, if the Supreme Court here affirms a ruling ordering them to restitute US$6m and pay US$10,000 fine each to the government, after Criminal Court “C” made “corrections” in its recent judgment against which the prosecutors had protested for containing less penalty and waiver of fines.

In a document titled “Court’s Correction of Sentence,” Liberia’s former Forestry Development Authority Managing Director, convict Moses Wogbeh and co-indictees- John Kantor, Janga Kamara, David Blayee and Maxwell, were sentenced Monday.

The convicts have already announced an appeal with the Supreme Court, but on Monday, 31 August, presiding Criminal Court “C” Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh gave each of them 72 hours to pay their fines of US$10,000 into government revenues as of the date of the final judgment on August 25.

He ordered the sheriff that convicts Moses Wogbeh, John Kantor, Janga Kamara, David Blayee and Maxwell Gwee be detained for ten years at the Monrovia Central Prison in Montserrado County or any suitable prison facility.

On August 25, Judge Gbeneweleh sentenced the convicted ex-FDA officials to restitute US$6m or face five years in prison without mentioning any fine against the defendants who had been on trial for economic sabotage, forgery, counterfeiting, obtaining deceptive writings and obstruction of government functions by public servants.

Under sub-Chapter “F” of Liberia’s Penal Code Section 15.87 relating to fines and restitution, a person tried and convicted shall be made to restitute the amount stolen and shall be fined an amount not less than $10,000 or be imprisoned for not less than ten years or both.

The law further requires that if the amount involved is $1,000, the [convict] shall pay a fine of $5,000 or be imprisoned for not less than five years or both. Since the court did not earlier apply Sub-chapter “F,” Section 15.87 of the Penal Code in its August 25 ruling, and instead imposed less penalty of five years  should the convicts fail to restitute the US$6m, Judge Gbeneweleh made the corrections on Monday, August 31 under Section 23.5 of Liberia’s Criminal Procedure Laws.

This law provides for correction or modification of sentence, and consistent with the provision, Judge Gbeneweleh, on Monday, fined the convicts US$10,000 each, sentenced them to ten years in prison and ordered them to restitute the $6m USD.

The convicts were indicted for allegedly issuing up to 61 illegal Private Use Permits or PUPs between April 2010 and December 2011, authorizing commercial logging operations on nearly 2.5 million hectares of land area and caused government to lose over US$6 million in revenues.

By Winston W. Parley -Edited by George Barpeen

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