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Boakai’s Justice Minister Pick is A Serial Illegal Logger


Top: This cartoon depicts Minister of Justice-designate Cooper Kruah in a conflict of interest when he served as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. Then Minister Kruah retained his shares in the Universal Forestry Corporation, which ran a forestry contract and held several mining licenses between 2018 and 2023. Illustration by Leslie Lomeh for The DayLight.

By James Harding Giahyue

  • MONROVIA – Minister of Justice-designate Cooper Kruah is a repeated forestry offender, with his company involved in illegal logging operations dating back to the Liberian Civil War era.
  • Kruah’s Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC) was debarred from forestry in 2006, based on the United Nations Security Council’s recommendation
  • UFC crept its way back into the sector—with assistance from forestry authorities—and continued its illegal activities
  • UFC was involved in the infamous Private Use Permit Scandal in which it illegally received two permits at the detriment of local communities
  • Later, UFC signed an agreement with a community forest in Nimba. Then the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Kruah remained one of its shareholders—a violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and forestry’s legal instruments
  • Kruah presented a fake document, which misspells his son’s name, to cover up his conflict of interest
  • UFC persisted with its offenses, abusing the rights of local people, conducting illegal harvesting and transport

MONROVIA – Cllr. Cooper Kruah, the Minister of Justice-designate, has a long history of being a forestry offender. His nomination contradicts the role of the Attorney General and undermines President Joseph Boakai’s expressed quest for accountability and the rule of law.

In his Inaugural Address, President Boakai promised to fight corruption and restore Liberia’s lost image in the comity of nations. Boakai restated that in his first State of the Nation Address.

Last month, Boakai appointed Kruah, a stalwart of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction whose support was instrumental in the Unity Party’s victory in last year’s elections.

Kruah is expected to appear before the Liberian Senate for confirmation. If confirmed, his job would be to prosecute individuals for alleged wrongdoings, sign concessions for Liberia and conduct oversight of several government offices.

But desk research, based on official records, United Nations reports and previous investigations by The DayLight reveals that Kruah may not be the right person for the post. It shows Kruah has broken forestry laws repeatedly with impunity, making no efforts to atone for his wrongdoings.

Kruah has refused to grant The DayLight an interview in each of the two times the newspaper contacted him. He preferred not to be recorded on the matter, which goes against The DayLight’s editorial policy.

Wartime logging

Kruah established Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC) in 1986, holding 25 percent of the company’s shares, according to its article of incorporation at the Liberia Business Registry. One Peter Goankeh held 25 percent while the remaining 50 was outstanding.

UFC was active in the early 1990s and early 2000s when Liberia became known for “conflict timber” or “logs of war.” Warring factions traded timber for weapons in two civil wars that killed an estimated 250,000 people.

The trade violated several United Nations arms embargoes on Liberia, leaving the Security Council to impose sanctions on Liberian timber.  To lift the sanctions, the Liberian government at the time submitted itself to reform led by the UN and national and international civil society organizations.

Following a review of forestry concessions in 2005, the administration canceled all logging contracts, including UFC’s. The review found that UFC was not compliant with the industry’s laws and that its contract was not even ratified by the Legislature.

As part of the reform agenda, UFC and 69 other companies were expelled from doing logging business in Liberia. That move was further carved in the 2007 Regulation on Bidder Qualifications, which partially debars individuals associated with wartime companies from forestry activities.

An Illegal Return

In 2007, UFC amended its legal documents to add new shareholders. Kruah retained five percent shares in the company and the others were distributed among four other people, including former presidential advisor Edward Slangar and two non-Liberians: Jin S. Kyung and B.J. Kim.

In 2007 and 2008, UFC signed two illegal MoUs with Geetroh in Sinoe and Rock Cess in River Cess for logging rights, respectively, according to a 2018 Global Witness report. The communities had not gotten their community forestry status when the MoUs were signed. A 2009 law gives communities the right to enter into contracts with loggers upon the approval of the FDA.

Three years later, Kruah hustled his way back into the sector. The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) ignored UFC’s wartime activities and its qualification regulation. UFC acquired two private use permits and logging rights granted for private lands.

But a two-year investigation by Global Witness, the Sustainable Development Institute and Save My Future Foundation found UFC and other companies were illegally awarded the permits. It became known as the Private Use Permit (PUP) Scandal.

A government-backed inquest uncovered a lot of irregularities with UFC’s PUPs. It found that UFC did not follow any legal processes, did not obtain an environmental permit and that fraudulent persons had posed to be the landowners of its contract areas.

It also found that UFC made payments into a personal bank account, its Grand Bassa PUP area was larger than the actual land size and the one in Sinoe was issued for communal, not private land.

A UN Security Council report revealed that UFC’s Sinoe permit covered the same area as Atlantic Resources, another company.

For the second time in its history, UFC’s permits were canceled alongside 62 others. The Managing Director of the FDA Moses Wogbeh was dismissed and prosecuted for his involvement in the scandal. A moratorium on the issuance of PUPs remains in force to this day.

Conflict of Interest

There is no public record of UFC’s activities after the PUP Scandal. However, UFC returned in 2020 with an agreement with the Sehzueplay Community Forest.

Kruah was the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications while serving as a shareholder and secretary of UFC’s board of directors when the agreement was signed.

That violated the National Forestry Reform Law of Liberia and the Code of Conduct for Public Officials. Both laws prohibit a government official from conducting logging activities. The violations were the subject of an investigative series by The DayLight in 2022.

Kruah tried to cover up his conflict of interest but ended up committing more wrongdoings. A 2019 document he claimed to be UFC’s amended article of incorporation was not recorded at the business registry as required by law. Also, UFC’s tax history at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) did not show it paid taxes for the amendment. UFC’s legal document at the business registry still carries Kruah and his five percent shares.

On the left is the real article of incorporation of Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC). On the right is the fake one Justice Minister-designate Cooper Kruah presented in 2022.  

Moreover, the content of UFC’s so-called amended article cemented the evidence of the document’s fakeness. The document misspelled the name of Kruah’s son. Instead of “Prince M. Kruah,” it read “Prince M. Kuah.”

Then FDA Managing Director Mike Doryen promised to act but failed to do so. Penalties for forgery in forestry are a fine between US$10,000 and three times the funds Kruah received from UFC, or a prison term of up to 12 months.

But Kruah did not know, or he ignored the fact that he would not have resolved his conflict of interest by transferring his shares to his son. The forestry reform law mandates him to relinquish, or turn over his shares to a blind trust or a person outside of his control.

Illegal harvesting

UFC carried out illegal logging and transport under his shareholdership. An August 2021 industry report found that UFC conducted “massive” illegal harvesting in and around the Sehzueplay Community Forest.

The report revealed that UFC was illegally transporting logs from Nimba to an illegitimate sawmill in Buchanan, Grand Bassa. Investigators suspected that UFC smuggled logs it had felled outside of Sehzueplay to the sawmill.

The DayLight had visited the forest and photographed some of the illegal logs mentioned in that report. It obtained a ranger’s memo to Kyung, UFC manager, informing him about the illegal felling.

“During our recent visit to your concession area, we discovered that you were doing illegal [felling]. You are fallen [trees] without being awarded a [harvesting] certificate,” the memo read, signed by Steve Kromah, the ranger responsible for forest contracts in the Tappita area.

The illegal harvesting was not UFC’s only offense. It unilaterally entered a subcontract with a logging firm. Sehzueplay or the FDA was not aware of the subcontract UFC signed with Ihsaan Logs Company (ILC), a forestry violation.

ILC is ineligible to conduct logging as Mohammed Paasewe, its co-owner, was still paying back funds he embezzled from the Liberian government when he served as Superintendent of Grand Cape Mount County.

The logs The DayLight photographed brandished, “UFC/ILC,” a reference to the unapproved subcontract.

Turns out, towns and villages that own the forest became the biggest victims. As of March 2022, UFC owed locals—and the government—US$155,000, the second-highest in the industry. It had yet to carry out a host of mandatory development projects there. That situation has not changed.

UFC illegally harvested logs in and out of the Sehzueplay Community Forest in Tappita District, Nimba County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Inside Minister Cooper Kruah’s Illegal Logging Deals


Top: A man brushes grass from a pile of logs illegally harvested by Universal Forestry Corporation, a company started and still owned by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah. The DayLIght/James Harding Giahyue 

By James Harding Giahyue

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three-part series on Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah’s conflict of interest as a shareholder in Universal Forestry Corporation. It focuses on Minister Kruah’s illegal logging dealings.    

TAPPITA, Nimba County – At the end of a 20-minute motorcycle ride from a town called Korlay, lie dozens of logs on a rocky, bushy road into the forest.

“That’s just small you see here. There are more in the bush,” one man tells my colleague Gabriel Dixon, our two motorcycle-taxi riders and me, as he cleared grass from a pile of logs. We cannot name him and other villagers we will interview over their fear of retribution.

We are in the Sehzueplay Community Forest in the Tappita District of Nimba County, where Universal Forestry Corporation (UFC) operates. The company signed an agreement with villages here in 2020 to share logging resources for 12 years. Last month, an investigation by The DayLight found that the Minister of Posts and Telecommunication Cooper Kruah is one of the owners of the company, rendering the agreement illegal.  Kruah has admitted to being in a conflict of interest over his continued role in the company for more than four years since he became a government official.  

But we have come here to uncover more of UFC’s violations, beginning with these logs it harvested in this part of the Gio National Forest. The leadership of Sehzueplay says the woods were cut between October 2020 and November last year, and records from the harvesting corroborate this timeline.

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) did not approve the harvesting, according to a January 21, 2022 memo from a ranger to Jin Kyung, UFC’s general manager, we have obtained.  

“During our recent visit to your concession area, we discovered that you were doing illegal [felling]. You are felling [trees] without being awarded a [felling] certificate,” the memo reads, signed by Steve Kromah, the ranger responsible for forest contracts in the Tappita area.

“In view of the above, you are hereby ordered closed with immediate [effect], pending advice from the FDA management,” it says.

Kromah had said in an earlier interview with The DayLight in Buchanan that he had halted the company’s operations because “Their felling certificates are all expired.” Now, he accuses us of misunderstanding his initial comments on the matter.

“Maybe I don’t know English but that is what I mean. Maybe you don’t understand forestry language very well but what I wrote is what you’re seeing there,” Kromah says in a phone call.

“When management asks me, I will know how to answer. Management will understand it that way. You cannot understand it. I didn’t write it to you,” he adds and hung up the phone. He has been reassigned, according to sources familiar with a recent wave of reshuffles at the FDA over illegal logging.   

Unauthorized harvesting is a violation of the Code of Harvesting Practices. (That is the same offense another company committed in River Cess) UFC is required to pay a fine of twice the total value of the volume of each species of logs illegally harvested as per their world market prices, according to the Regulation on Confiscated Logs, Timber and Timber Products.   

The FDA will, however, have to obtain a court order to confiscate and auction the logs but it must first find out the total volume of the illegally harvested logs. Partial data of the harvesting we obtained shows 150 logs, but the community leadership estimate there are 200 more woods. Some of them are in good shape but others have defects, indicating it would be difficult to auction them.

UFC also did not conduct an environmental and social impact assessment in 2020 for its operations in Sehzueplay, according to the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). That again contravenes the  Code of Harvesting Practices, which sets it as a prerequisite for felling trees. The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA), the government institution that oversees the assessment,  did not grant us an interview on the matter up to writing time.

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

That would not be UFC’s only violation, though. The company subcontracted another firm called Ihsaan Logs Company (ILC) with neither the approval of the FDA nor the consent of the community. ILC is managed and owned by Mohammed Paasewe, the former Superintendent of Grand Cape Mount County.  

In fact, ILC-hired loggers harvested some of the logs we see in the forest, according to communications between the two companies seen by The DayLight. Logs with “UFC/ILC”  markings shine through wet, towering grass, back that evidence. 

UFC and ILC had signed the illegal agreement in November last year, the documents, seen by The DayLight, show. The deal was torn apart, less than two months later due to disagreements over payments and equipment, according to the documents.  

“We have resolved to inform [you] that as of the date of this letter, the [proposed] agreement is off our table for negotiation, and that we are advising you to immediately recall all of your personnel/employees that were sent to our concession areas,” a January 31, 2022 letter from UFC  to ILC reads. “We also reserve the right to demand payment for our yellow machine that you used… during your operation.”

Paasewe replies to an unnamed representative of UFC with a series of requests for repayment of fees his company had paid UFC in a WhatsApp chat seen by The DayLight.  

“What happened to the US$1,200 that you received before… (US$700 for the visit of his computer man to attend a meeting [a] in Tappita, US$500 to stop the mechanics from taking parts from his machine)?

“What happened to the US$300 to bring electricity to his house, US$300 to finish his preparation for the new place, US$400 for the repair of the pickup and US$300 for documentation, and also who pays the US$500 for the advance payment for the repair of the D8 [bulldozer]?

Paasewe alleges in the exchange that Kyung had told him that Sehzueplay had 19,000 hectares of forestland, not the 6,890 hectares it covers in reality.

Kyung replies to Paasewe roughly two weeks after his previous letter, agreeing to repay ILC US$10,850 in March, which Paasewe says has not happened five months on. Efforts to speak to Kyung did not materialize. He did not reply to emailed questions on his deal with ILC and other issues as well. We called him twice but he said he was in the forest and had no access to a computer or internet.

As part of their deal, ILC was supposed to pay UFC US$200,000 as an advance payment on the sales of logs at the rate of US$30 per cubic meter, regardless of the species. (Logs are priced based on their species) In return, ILC agreed to harvest at least 1,500 cubic meters of logs each of the remaining 10 years of the contract.

An illegal logging deal between Universal Forestry Corporation and its Ihsaan Logs Company failed over payments and equipment. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Then the parties settled to delay the construction of the headquarters of the community’s leadership and a school building— both due last year—by two and three years, respectively, the unapproved agreement shows.

“That is why we did not sign that document. “It was not in our interest,” Moses Wobuah, the head of the community leadership, tells us in an interview at his home in Korlay, one of seven towns and villages affected by UFC’s unlawful operations. Volay, Zeongehn, Zuolay, Graie, and Sehye Village complete the list.

“That document is null and void. It is not legal,” Wobuah adds.  

The CEO of ILC is another layer of illegality. Paasewe was dismissed as superintendent in 2015 by then-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for “misuse of public funds.” However, he criminally collected US$11,215.63 and L$293,980 as superintendent in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC). He restituted US$5,000 of the money in an out-of-court settlement, the LACC reported at the time.

Paasewe has not repaid the full amount he embezzled. “We are in the process,” he tells me in an interview at his office in Monrovia. “I don’t want to have those kinds of things hanging over my head. I want to get that out of the way.”

Having admitted to theft barely a year before his UFC subcontract, Paasewe’s company is ineligible for any logging operations, according to the National Forestry Reform Law. Businesspeople who concede to such a crime are barred by the law from any kind of forest resource license for five years.

ILC applied for prequalification to do logging in Liberia last year but has not been approved, according to Paasewe and sources at the FDA. The agency did not provide The DayLight copies of ILC’s application documents, though public access to such information is guaranteed under the National Forestry Reform Law and the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Liberia and the European Union. The FDA had flouted its own Regulation on Bidder Qualifications by initially prequalifying UFC for Sehzueplay with the Postmaster General of the Republic of Liberia one of its shareholders.

Paasewe says he is willing to relinquish his shares in ILC or place them in a firm or a person he has no control over to be in line with the law.

“We’re going to have to do an overhauling. When we are reapplying, you can be assured of that,” he says.

“I am grateful for the work you do because this will keep everybody’s foot to the fire to do what is right. Whether we are victims or whatever, I think when you are called to order, you should always be ready to correct and do your best. What you are trying to save is not for me but for the generation coming after me,” he adds.    

Paasewe’s criminal record worsens things for UFC.  Like conflict of interest, its unauthorized transfer of the agreement to ILC is another ground for termination of its contract, according to the forestry reform law.

Kruah already faces a fine between US$10,000 and up to three times the money he has received from UFC if he is convicted in a mandatory lawsuit. Now, he faces a US$2,000 fine and a 24-month prison term over UFC’s mining deals in this same Tappita region. And he faces suspension or dismissal for breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, the same offense the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) alleges the Minister of Agriculture Jeannie Cooper committed.

Kruah, a lawyer, claims that turning over his five-percent shares to Prince Kruah, his son, also a lawyer, prevents him from a conflict of interest. “His son is above the constitutional decision-making age and he even [owns] more shares than his father, which is his right under the Constitution of Liberia,” says Caesar Slapeh, a spokesman of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in a Facebook message to The DayLight.

But that is not what the law says. It mandates an official of the government to relinquish their shares in private companies doing business with the government to an “entity outside the person’s influence and control, such as an unrelated individual or a blind trust…” With Prince Kruah’s 15 percent equity in UFC, according to the company’s “amended” article of incorporation, Minister Kruah now has more stakes in the company and is in starker contrast with the law.

Owned by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Cooper Kruah, Universal Forestry Corporation has failed to build a school, a road, and provide scholarships for towns and villages affected by its operations. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Most of the violations we find mirror UFC’s role in the infamous Private Use Permit (PUP) Scandal of 2012, in which some 2.5 million hectares of forests were illegally awarded to logging companies. An official inquest found the company committed several offenses while logging in Butaw District, Sinoe County between 2010 and 2012. That investigation found that UFC did not conduct an environmental and social impact assessment, skipped an environmental permit, did not present a harvesting certificate before commencing logging and that it paid community benefits into a personal account, among other things. UFC’s permit and 62 others were canceled in what remains the biggest scandal to engulf the forestry sector since the end of the Liberian Civil War (1989-2003).

Delayed payments

Amid these violations, UFC has not lived up to the agreement it signed with Sehzueplay, another legal reason for the cancelation of its contract. The company owes the community land-rental fees and an unspecified amount from logs it has harvested in the 6,890-hectare woodland, according to Wobuah. In addition to the school building and leadership quarter in that illegal deal with ILC, UFC has failed to pave a 19-kilometer road, provide drinking water sources and an annual US$4,000 for scholarships.

Official records of the company’s payments corroborate the community’s account. UFC owes both the community and the Liberian government US$155,000, according to the joint implementation committee of the VPA. That is the second-highest debt owned by a company operating in a community forest. Only Liberia Tree and Timber Trading Company (LTTC) has more, US$269,007.  

Nanleh Vaye, a member of Sehzueplay’s leadership says  UFC has had struggles with equipment.  He tells us that disgruntle workers of the company months earlier stole parts from its earthmovers in an apparent disagreement over wages. We see four of the machines parked in the area: two at its office in Korlay and two others on the route leading to the logs. They look like they have not moved for a long time.  

“They have not sold one piece of logs from that forest,” Vaye says. “We agreed to give them chance until they can sell.”

But you can sense the general frustration over the UFC among villagers. They have known about Kruah’s ownership of UFC but had thought it would work in their interest as a lawyer and native of Sehzueplay.  

“Cooper Kruah said he wanted jobs for Doe Administrative District,” one villager says. UFC has held several mining claims predominantly in this area, the focus of our next investigation on Kruah’s illegal businesses.    

“He’s [a] shareholder of the community and legal advisor for the community,” says another, “but he takes the company over us.”

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA), did not grant The DayLight an interview on the company’s illegal operations. We made the first request in a letter on the 27th of last month and followed up with an email more than two weeks after. Managing Director Mike Doryen had said in a phone conversation, “Rest assured, we will take the appropriate action. I will not protect any official of government who breaks the law.”

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


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.