Varney Marshall (right) poses for a picture while a chainsaw miller works at Marshall’s illegal logging site in Gbarpolu County. Picture credit: WhatsApp/Varney Marshall

By James Harding Giahyue

KLAY, Bomi County – A leaked video of a ranger of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) shot by himself and photographs probably taken by his accomplices have revealed his illegal logging operations.

Varney Marshall, who is assigned at the Klay checkpoint in Bomi County, can be heard ranting in the one-minute-58-second video furious that one of his accomplices was trying to cheat him.

“Look at the woods Abe called 600 pieces. Look at the woods he [has] now hauled. I will wait for him until he comes here,” he can be heard saying at the beginning of the film.

He then turns his mobile phone around an open field of more than a thousand timbers.

“You see it, you see the woods? I am doing this video to send it to my woman straight. You see it, you see the wood?

“He’s here doing Gobachop. That’s here his dismissal will come from.  You see the distances the woods [are]?  Is that 600 pieces here?” “Gobachop” means black market in Liberian parlance. It was coined in reference to the late Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose leadership led to the demise of the former Soviet Union.

“You want to steal from me?” Marshall says in the recording.

The leaked video exposed Varnery Marshall, the FDA ranger who runs illegal logging operations.

The video and pictures are believed to be taken at different locations in the forest in Gbarpolu County. Some reveal a sea of timbers scattered on an open field. Some show wood parked in containers. Others reveal Marshall’s accomplices, sitting on top of a mountain of woods, standing near a gigantic tree and posing for a photo with their new chainsaws and gear. Several of the pictures featured Marshall himself modeling next to a chainsaw operator as he saw a huge log.  

Marshall had sent the recordings and pictures to a source as a pitch for both men to partner in an illegal logging business. “We need to talk, brother,” Marshall tells the source in the WhatsApp message on August 16 at 8 p.m.  His message does not get a reply. The source said he shared the message with The DayLight to prove he was also a victim, not just an actor of the unlawful activity.

The leak comes barely a week after the FDA said it has observed that several illegal timber products are being exported without a trace. It said smugglers were hiding wood in containers. “FDA checkpoint and Free Port of Monrovia staff members are instructed to open all sealed containers from forested areas to verify content and ensure that the FDA duly issued conveying permit documents,” the statement said.

The agency suspended Marshall and Edward Kollie Jallah, another ranger assigned at the Klay checkpoint, over the leaked video and their alleged roles in the transport of illegal woods that involved a police commander and other individuals, according to Cllr. Yanquoi Dolo, the head of the FDA legal team.

“Both Marshall and Jallah are suspended with directives that they report to Monrovia for investigation. They are expected to report to headquarters tomorrow. Their supervisor has been notified,” Dolo told The DayLight.

Marshall and Jallah did not answer phone calls placed to them. They did not reply to WhatsApp messages well.

A container is being uploaded at an illegal logging site run by FDA ranger Varney Marshall. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall
Woods loaded in a container that Varney Marshall harvested in a forest believed to be in Gbarpolu. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall
A pile of woods Varney Marshall, an FDA ranger, illegally harvested in a forest believed to be in Gbarpolu County. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall
A pile of woods Varney Marshall, an FDA ranger, illegally harvested in a forest believed to be in Gbarpolu County. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall
Some of Varney Marshall’s accomplices pose with new chainsaws and gears. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall
Woods Varney Marshall illegally harvested
Two illegal loggers who work with Varney Marshall. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall
Woods Varney Marshall harvested illegally. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall
A mountain of timbers Varney Marshall, an FDA ranger, illegally harvested. WhatsApp/Varney Marshall

CORRECTIONS: This version of the story deleted the repeated phrase “means black market.” It also corrects “woods” for wood in the fifth paragraph.

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