Top: FDA’s Deputy Managing Director for Administration and Finance Benjamin Tennessee Plewon III did not turn out for questioning over his alleged involvement with an illegal logging operation in 2022. Facebook/Benjamin Plewon

By O`Neill Philips for The DayLight

MONROVIA – The Deputy Managing Director for Administration and Finance Benjamin Tennessee Plewon III Forestry Development Authority refused to cooperate with a police investigation into an illegal logging operation, court documents reveal.    

The Liberian National Police invited Plewon over his alleged connection to men suspected of illegally harvesting logs in Gbarpolu County last year, according to the documents. The police filed the documents last year but The DayLight only obtained them last week.

The suspects, including Korean nationals, FDA rangers, a then-police commander and a customs officer, are accused of trying to smuggle timber valued at US$60,000, the documents say.

“The investigation notes that Benjamin Tennessee Plewon… failed to honor the invitation, which constitutes hindering law enforcement…,” reads a police report filed with Criminal Court A. No charges were filed against Plewon.

A copy of an export permit issued to Coveiyallah, which the Deputy Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Benjamin Tennessee Plewon III allegedly provided to an illegal logging syndicate. Members of the syndicates have been charged with various offenses, ranging from economic sabotage to bribery.

Plewon is accused of providing the export permit of Coveiyallah, according to the documents. Coveiyellah, which operates in Gbarpolu, owns the permit.

Plewon allegedly gave the permit to Isaac Railey, the head of the FDA law enforcement department. Railey then presented the permit to Dawoda Sesay, then a police commander in the Paynesville area, according to the filings. Sesay has since been disrobed and Railey suspended.

Plewon did not respond to WhatsApp questions or pick up calls for comments on the allegation. 

The DayLight exposed the illegal operation in August last year after the FDA seized three trucks transporting the illicit timber. An alleged disagreement over the payment of a bribe had exposed the syndicate, according to court filings.   

The police charged Railey, Sesay and several other suspects with economic sabotage and other crimes.  

The men deny the charges. They have not been indicted, about six months after their arrest and release on bail by the Monrovia City Court.

This story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).

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