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Ex-Minister Leaves Government With A Trail of Illegal Acts

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Top: Former Minister Cooper Kruah smiling in his office at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications: Facebook/Emmanuel Fred


By Mark B. Newa


  • Cllr. Cooper Kruah was a shareholder in a logging and mining company while he served as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
  • Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC) received nearly a dozen mining licenses and one logging contract while Cooper was a minister
  • Kruah  tried to cover up his conflict of interest by pretending to turn over his shares with an apparently fake company document
  • With Kruah a shareholder, UFC was involved in an illegal subcontract, illicit logging, and smuggling of logs
  • Amid evidence of Kruah’s and UFC’s offenses, both the Forestry Development Authority and the Ministry of Mines and Energy did not punish Kruah or UFC

MONROVIA – In May, President George Weah dismissed then Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah after attending a Unity Party rally, ending the veteran lawyer’s four-year stint in the government.

Kruah’s departure sparked an instant controversy—betrayal versus “political intolerance.” However, he has left a host of irregularities in the logging and mining industries with impunity.

These offenses range from a conflict of interest to an unlawful extraction of minerals and timber in his hometown of Nimba County. The acts violate the Liberian Constitution, the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, the National Forestry Reform Law and the Minerals and Mining Law of 2000.

UFC was established on February 9, 1986. Edward Slangar, a former presidential advisor, holds 10 percent.  Jim Kyung follows with 70 percent. Naranyan Vasnani, a foreign national, holds five percent. And Cooper Kruah the remaining five percent, according to the company’s legal documents at the Liberian Business Registry.

President Weah appointed Kruah in February 2018 and was confirmed by the Senate in August 2018. However, Kruah did not relinquish his shares or take other legal actions to avoid a conflict of interest.

UFC would go on to have more than a dozen mining licenses and a logging contract in Nimba and Grand Bassa, while Kruah served as the Postmaster General of the Republic of Liberia.

Cover-up Exposed

The DayLight initially exposed then-Minister Kruah in an investigation last year. After the publication, Kruah lied that UFC amended its article of incorporation in 2019.  “This amendment of the article of incorporation is the best evidence for the public,” Kruah said in a statement at the time.

But records of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) show that UFC did not amend its article of incorporation in 2019.  Companies pay a fee at the LRA to amend their legal documents. UFC did not make any such payment, official records show.

This new evidence reinforces The DayLight’s previous reports.

Moreover, UFC’s so-called article of incorporation, obtained by The DayLight, physically appears to be fake. The document misspells Kruah son`s name: “Prince M. Kuah” instead of Prince M. Kruah. It also came more than one and a half years since Kruah became a government official.

Conflict of interest aside, evidence points to UFC’s violations of forestry and mining laws while Cooper Kruah was a minister.

Stealing Logs

A high-profile 2021 report found UFC committed a number of offenses. The report said UFC did not declare “massive” harvesting of timber in the Sehzueplay Community Forest, felled trees outside of its contract area, and transported logs to a sawmill without valid documents. The report also found UFC did not pay the community and the government any fees for the logs.

Illegally harvesting timber violates a number of forestry legal frameworks, including Liberia’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union. No actions were taken against UFC with then Minister Cooper Kruah as one of its shareholders.

The Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) report for 2019-2020 shows UFC skipped an environmental permit. And The DayLight reported UFC did obtain a harvesting certificate before operating, citing a ranger’s memo.

Logs Universal Forestry Corporation, owned by then Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah, illegally harvested in Tappita, Nimba County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue   

As of March 2022, UFC owed both the affected community and the government US$155,000, according to the joint implementation committee of the VPA. This is the second-highest debt owed by a logging company at the time. The FDA did not grant The DayLight’s request for UFC’s updated outstanding payment, another violation of forestry laws.

UFC subcontracted an illegitimate company without the approval of the FDA or the consent of the leadership of Sehzueplay Community Forest. The manager of Ihsaan Logging Company Mohammed Paasawe was dismissed as Superintendent of Grand Cape Mount County for corruption.

The FDA could have avoided all of this, though. It ignored the Regulation on Bidder Qualification, by prequalifying UFC to operate, while then Minister Cooper Kruah remained its shareholder.

The agency did not respond to questions for comments. However, last year, Managing Director Mike Doryen promised to investigate and take appropriate actions against UFC and Cooper Kruah but has not. “I will not protect any official of government who breaks the law,” Doryen said at the time.

Conflict of interest carries a fine between US$10,000 and US$25,000, up to three times the sum Kruah has received from his equity in UFC, or a prison term of up to 12 months, according to the National Forestry Reform Law.

UFC’s Illegal Goldmines

UFC thrived with Kruah a cabinet minister. Between 2018 and last month when he was sacked, the Ministry of Mines and Energy awarded UFC nearly a dozen mining licenses and a dealer license, according to official records. It managed only a few prior to Kruah’s appointment.

Universal Forestry Corporation did not reclaim its mines in Tappita, Nimba County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue  

That boom is reflected in UFC’s figures. In the 2018-2019 period alone, UFC produced 16.85 kilograms of gold with export valued at US$313.525, according to the LRA payment record. It paid the government US$99,545, one of the highest contributions then, the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) reported.

The ministry unlawfully allowed UFC to operate, despite Kruah’s admitting to a conflict of interest, and did not penalize it amid the evidence.  

The ministry declined an interview on the subject in the last 12 months. On both occasions, Minister Gesler Murry referred The DayLight to Deputy Minister Operations Emmanuel Sherman, who evaded an interview.  

Like the forestry law, the Mineral and Mining Law requires officials to not hold shares in companies that actively operating. It prescribes a fine of not more than US$25,000, a prison term of up to one year, or both upon conviction in a courthouse.  

Kruah declined an interview, the second time he has refused to speak on his connection with UFC. This month, he promised to grant an interview on the matter but—like last year—insisted he did not want the conversation recorded. This reporter rejected that suggestion, as it goes against The DayLight’s editorial policy.  

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

Minister Breaks Laws With Shares In Mining and Logging Company

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Top: Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah illegally holds a five percent stake in a mining and logging company. Illustration by Leslie Lumeh


By James Harding Giahyue

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series on Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah’s conflict of interest as a shareholder in Universal Forestry Corporation, a mining and logging company operating in Grand Bassa and Nimba.


MONROVIA – Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah holds shares in a company actively mining and logging in Liberia, a violation of laws governing the two industries as well as a breach of the Liberian Constitution and the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, an investigation by The DayLight has found.

Kruah holds five percent of the shares in Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC), according to the firm’s legal document. UFC has had 11 mining licenses since his appointment in February 2018, records of the Ministry of Mines and Energy show. The company had held a few logging concessions prior to Kruah becoming a cabinet minister. However, it began to acquire a flurry of mining licenses after he became the Postmaster General. The company currently has a logging agreement.

Of the nearly one dozen UFC mining licenses, 10 are for semi-industrial-scale gold mining, prospecting,  and dealer licenses, and the other is a diamond broker license. Four of these permits are still active. The company operates the mines and dealerships in Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Nimba. One of its goldmines in Nimba had been the setting of a 2019 mine accident, which killed at least five people, according to the BBC.

The company produced 16.85 kilograms of gold, valued at US$313,525 in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI), one of the biggest contributors in the sector that year. From that period to last year, it paid the government US$99,545, according to the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

His equity in UFC is a violation of the Minerals and Mining Law of 2000. The statute debars “the President of Liberia, the Vice President of Liberia, any member of the National Legislature, Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the subordinate courts of records, cabinet ministers, managing directors of public corporations during their tenure in office.”

Kruah had established UFC in 1986 with an initial 25 percent shares, which reduced to five percent when the company amended its article of incorporation in 2007, the document shows. Its other shareholders include Edward Slangar, former advisor to the late President Samuel Doe, and B.J. Kim and Jin Kyung, two foreign nationals. Kruah also serves as the secretary of the company’s board of directors and has been cited in official communications, seen by The DayLight, as its lawyer.

To prevent a conflict of interest, the law mandates a government official to either “dispose of such mineral right or place such mineral right in a blind trust,” a business that takes care of private investment interests without the interference of the owner. There are no records that Kruah, who has been fighting cybercrimes,  has done either of those things.   

Kruah faces a US$2,000 fine, a 24-month prison term, or both penalties if convicted in a court, according to the mining law.

A mine in Nimba County operated by Universal Forestry Corporation, one of whose shareholders is Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

The Ministry of Mines and Energy did not respond to The DayLight’s queries for comments on the matter up to press time. We will update this report once it does.  

UFC also has a logging agreement with Sehzueplay Community Forest in Tappita District, Nimba County,  the same region the company operates the majority of its goldmines. The agreement for the 8,690-hectare rocky woodland was signed on January 30, 2020, nearly two years after Kruah’s appointment.

That, again, breaks the National Forestry Reform Law, which rules out public officials from holding any logging permit above one percent. Like the mining statute, the forestry law compels an official of government to transfer ownership of the “entity outside the person’s influence and control, such as an unrelated individual or a blind trust…” There are no records that Kruah has done that as well.    

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) approving UFC’s agreement with Sehzueplay with Kruah one of the company’s shareholders also breaches the FDA Ten Core Regulations, a set of dos and don’ts of the logging sector. Regulation 103-07 in particular disqualifies companies whose shareholders are members of the government from being prequalified for logging licenses.   

The Managing Director of the FDA Mike Doryen told The DayLight in a mobile phone interview that the agency was investigating the matter. “Rest assured, we will take the appropriate action,” Doryen said. “I will not protect any official of government who breaks the law.”

Conflict of interest carries a fine between US$10,000 and US$25,000, up to three times the sum Kruah has received from his equity in UFC, or a prison term of up to 12 months, according to the National Forestry Reform Law.

It is not the first time that UFC has violated forestry legal frameworks. It was involved in the notorious  Private Use Permit (PUP) Scandal, in which an estimated 2.5 million hectares of forests—or 23 percent of the country’s landmass—was illegally awarded to logging companies. A government-backed inquest found the company broke the law in different instances while logging in Geetroh, Butaw District of Sinoe County between 2010 and 2012. That investigation found that UFC did not have an environmental permit or a certificate to harvest trees and that it paid community benefits into a personal account. UFC’s PUP and 62 others were canceled and a moratorium remains in place on the permit.  

Kruah’s stakes in UFC are also a breach of the Code of Conduct, which defines conflict of interest as “when a public official, contrary to official obligations and duties to act for the benefit of the public, exploits a relationship for personal benefit.” Under this law, he faces a fine, suspension and dismissal, among other penalties.

The Code of Conduct has its roots in the Liberian Constitution, which says, “No person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute [a] conflict of interest.”

Jin Kyung, UFC’s general manager, denied Kruah is a shareholder in the company. Kyung said the copy of the company’s legal documents The DayLight has was not genuine but refused to share his copy, claiming it was a private document. That claim is wrong as a company’s article of incorporation is a public record under the Business Corporation Act and the Freedom of Information Act as well as the logging law.

Kruah did not grant The DayLight an interview on his violations, asking us to “publish anything you want to” in November last year. He had accepted our request for an interview but insisted we did not record the conversation.

The news comes barely a week after the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) called for the prosecution of several officials of government, including Minister of Agriculture Jeanine Cooper, for alleged conflict of interest.

Some of the logs Universal Forestry Corporation illegally felled in the Sehzueplay Community Forest in Nimba County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

This story was a collaboration with the Center for Transparency and Accountability of Liberia (CENTAL), with funding from the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA). It is an activity under the CENTAL’s ongoing National Integrity Building and Anti-Corruption (NIBA) program.

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