Investigators in the FDA scandal say communities and companies gave them photo copies of Private Use Permits during their investigation, because the [PUP] owners “were concerned about relinquishing the original copies” to the Special Independent Investigative Body or SIIB.
Attempt by the SIIB to solicit original PUP copies from companies and communities was necessitated by the alleged “failure” of the Management of the Forestry Development Authority under the leadership of indicted former Managing Director, Mr. Moses Wogbeh “to provide the committee original copies of contracts” signed.
The Executive Director of Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia or CENTAL, Mr. Thomas Doe Nah, told cross examiners on Thursday at the Criminal Court “C” that FDA Management “was only able to provide the committee copies of 38 PUPs” out of 63 PUPs allegedly approved by defendant Wogbeh and former Managing Director Mr. John Woods.
According to witness Nah, the 38 PUP copies provided by FDA management “…were original and represented the actions of the FDA as those copies were presented” to the committee by the Management.
Following a 2012 investigative report to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf into PUPs contracts, prosecutors this year indicted former FDA Boss Moses Wogbeh and other key officials, including John Kantor, Jangar Kamara, Augustine B.M. Johnson, Grand Bassa County Surveyor David Blayee and former Lands, Mines and Energy’s Director of Cartography, Maxwell Gwee on multiple crimes.
But the defendants have denied all of the charges, including economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, and forgery or counterfeiting, obtaining and issuing deceptive writings, and obstruction of government function by public servant.
Beside the two PUPs allegedly issued under Mr. John Woods’ administration at FDA, prosecutors are claiming that the defendants under Mr. Wogbeh’s administration, issued up to 61 illegal PUPs between April 2010 [and] December 2011 that allegedly authorized commercial logging operations on nearly 2.5 million hectares of land area and caused government to loss over US$6 Millions in revenues.
Earlier on Tuesday, April 14, Witness Nah testified that the committee found that the PUP contract and the social agreement did not reflect market value as logs exploited by PUP contractors were being sold [at high prices] that he said the committee realized that the communities were not fully aware of.
He also said the FDA, as part of its responsibility to ensure that the forest is managed sustainably and that the communities are direct beneficiaries of the forest, failed to protect the interest of those communities.
By Winston W. Parley