Top: The Temple of Justice in Monrovia. Picture credit: Reuters/James Harding Giahyue
By Gabriel M. Dixon
MONROVIA – The Monrovia City Court has issued an arrest warrant for 10 people for their alleged involvement in unlawful logging activities, first revealed to the public in an investigation by The DayLight.
They include Dawoda Sesay, a former police commander, Varney Marshall, a former ranger with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and Beomjin Lee, a Korean national.
They have been charged with property theft, forgery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation and bribery. A police inquest found the men felled a number of first-class logs in Gbarpolu County and attempted to ship them through the Freeport of Monrovia.
“These people will go in the bushes fell the trees, cut the logs, and use bogus documents in order to evade taxes, and will use those documents to ship the containers of logs out of Liberia,” Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue told a news conference last week.
The DayLight had broken the story and went on to assist the police in their investigation, providing them with important pieces of information that would lead to the charges.
The newspaper, which focuses on environmental investigations, first published on 14th August last year that the FDA had arrested three container trucks loaded with illegally harvested timber nearly a month earlier.
The paper would go on to publish a detailed account of the illicit activity that same month, naming members of the syndicate and the role they played in the illegal harvest. Not long after that, the FDA petitioned the circuit courts in Bomi and Gbarpolu to auction the logs, orders it is yet to be granted.
The DayLight also published a leaked video, revealing Marshall’s own illegal logging operations. Marshall can be held in the video complaining over his accomplice’s attempt to cheat him while filming huge piles of boxlike wood, commonly called “Kpokolo.” Pictures apparently taken by another accomplice show the depth of Marshall’s criminal operations, including loads of containers of kpokolo.
On Monday, the FDA announced it has dismissed Marshall, citing the report and charges against him at the Monrovia City Court. “A video circulated on social media and reported by The DayLight online media captured Mr. Marshal’s open engagement in illegal logging activities, a vice he was hired to prevent and combat,” the FDA said in a statement. It added that Marshall had admitted in an inhouse probe.
FDA also said it has suspended Edward Jallah without pay, another FDA ranger captured in The DayLight’s initial report that eventually led to the city court’s charges.