Top: Police officers at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue
By O’Neill Philips
- Two Korean nationals suspected of illegal logging activities and their Liberian partners are yet to be indicted
- Prosecutors drafted an indictment for the men but have not signed it.
- A related case against an ex-police commander was dismissed because prosecutors failed to appear in court.
- The men will walk away free if the Liberian government does not indict them in the next term of court
MONROVIA – Prosecutors are yet to indict members of a syndicate of the Liberian National Police charged with various crimes over an illegal logging operation in Gbarpolu County, nearly six months after they were arrested.
Korean duo Beomjin Lee and Jun Jeon Sik, and their Liberian partners were charged with economic sabotage, theft, criminal conspiracy, and criminal facilitation to forgery and bribery.
Their partners include Varney Marshall, Dawoda Sesay, Isaac Richmond Anderson, Jr., Edward Jallah, Isaac Railey, Peter Kpadeh, David Tawah and Prince Kwesi Wallace. The men deny any wrongdoing.
The Monrovia City Court jailed and then released the men back in January after the police forwarded the suspects there, following five months of investigation, court documents show.
Since their writ of arrest was issued by the court on November 10 last year, the matter has long lingered on.
Prosecutors have drafted an indictment but did not sign the document, seen by The DayLight.
Sources familiar with the matter told The DayLight Acting Montserrado County Attorney Boakai Harvey did not sign it because he is related to at least one of the suspects.
When contacted at his Temple of Justice office, Harvey admitted that he recused himself from the matter but did not provide any reason. It was not clear why another prosecutor did not sign the draft indictment, as is the procedure in such instances.
The government has the next term of court to indict the men, as the current term is about to close. If not, the court will dismiss the charges entirely in line with the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia.
Case with Ex-policeman Dismissed
The Monrovia City Court, however, heard a case between the government and one of the accused men, Dawoda Sesay. That case was dismissed last month because the FDA did not appear in court. Legally, magisterial courts can hear a case without an indictment and dismiss it after a particular timeframe.
Before the court dismissed the case, Sesay’s lawyer argued that the state was reluctant to prosecute him in violation of his right to a fair and speedy trial, according to court filings.
Prosecutors said they did not appear because they did not have the means to get witnesses from Gbarpolu and Bomi to Monrovia to testify in court.
They could still try Sesay during the next term of court in August, even in a circuit court, our judicial correspondent said.
Beomjin Lee and Jun Sik are accused of working with Isaac Richmond Anderson and Sesay and building a syndicate to smuggle logs to South Korea.
They went to Gbarpolu County and allegedly harvested an expensive species of woods over a month to be shipped to Busan, South Korea. The timber was valued at over US$60,000, according to court records.
Beomjin, Sesay and Anderson contacted Peter Kpadeh, an employee of the Ministry of Commerce, Kpadeh allegedly contacted Isaac Railey, the head of the FDA law enforcement department. They are suspected of conniving with Prince Kwesi Wallace and David Taweh, two custom brokers, according to court documents.
Sesay and Anderson then made arrangements for four trucks to transport the log from Gbarpolu to the Freeport of Monrovia. But two of the trucks were arrested at Klay in Bomi and impounded at the FDA sub-offices in Tubmanburg and Sawmill.
Rangers Edward Jallah and Varney Marshall had taken a US$600 bribe from Anderson and Sesay and allowed one of the trucks to pass the checkpoint, according to court documents.
The DayLight broke the story in a two-part series in August last year. The online environmental newspaper provided the police with evidence.
This story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).