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Undercover Investigation Reveals Illegal Logger’s Criminal Acts    


Top: A poster showing the illegal logging activities by Michael Feika in Totoquelleh, Gbarpolu County. The DayLight/Rebazar Forte

By James Harding Giahyue

TOTOQUELLEH, Gbarpolu County – “If [it is a] container, I give you my price. You buy it from me in the bush,” Michael Feika, an illegal logger, told his new client.

Feika is a broker of kpokolo, squared, compact timber whose trade the government “banned” just over a year ago but has reemerged, with authorities yet to act.

Feika shared several of his past and present operations with Joemue Wortee when they met in Paynesville on March 8. The pictures were equally revealing as Feika’s verbal pitch to Wortee, the assumed client.

“I will bring [the kpokolo] to town. It is only left with you to pay me because I got the document,” Feika said as he tried to convince Wortee of a deal.

“This thing [is] my business from day one.”

In his late 30s and with a Sierra Leonean accent, Feika sent Wortee to his network in Totoquelleh in the Bopolu District of Gbarpolu County.  There, Wortee saw Feika’s setup—production sites, an earthmover, timber and a gang of chainsaw millers and haulers.

But Wortee was no businessman.  He was an undercover reporter whose mission was to uncover Feika’s illegal logging activities. The reporter’s mission set off as evidence of fresh kpokolo activities began in the western countryside.

The DayLight used undercover techniques because it appeared impossible that Feika would submit to an open probe, particularly after our previous report on the return of kpokolo. Also, such investigation in a forest best guaranteed the reporter’s safety.


The DayLight’s undercover reporter under his assumed name traveled to Totoquelleh, some 62 miles north of Monrovia.

Michael Feika, aliased Mikelo, a prolific kpokolo logger, poses near a tree he just felled. Photo credit Michael Feika

When the reporter arrived at the destination, Feika had already informed a member of his network about the assumed businessman’s mission. The undercover reporter did not know this so, he went asking the townspeople for the teenage member named only as Morris.

Just as Feika had said, everyone the reporter asked in Totoquelleh said they knew Feika and his operations. The people call him Mikelo, a play on the words “Michael” and “Kpokolo.”

Feika and Morris live in a mud hut from where the former serves as the ringleader for their wood trafficking network of over 20 operators. At times he hosts Sierra Leonean illegal loggers for months in Totoquelleh. Feika claims that he hails from Margibi County but his Facebook account lists Freetown as his home city. Other Feikas listed as his friends on Facebook also come from Sierra Leone. This means Feika is not even qualified to conduct small-scale logging activities in Liberia, set aside for only Liberians.

The undercover reporter went to Feika’s house in search of Morris. That search took him to the home of Abadulai Fofana, another kpokolo producer in the forest-enveloped community. It was here the reporter met Morris.

Up: Fresh kpokolo Michael Feika harvested in few months ago. Here: Old kpokolo Feika harvested in 2022. The DayLight/Esau Farr

The short, black teenager, who is also a motorcycle taxi driver, then took the undercover reporter on a guided tour of Feika’s kpokolo world.

As they took a footpath leading to a farm, Morris told the undercover reporter that they produced a lot of kpokolo in 2022. Their production has slowed down in the last two years and they only produce when a customer approaches them.

As they walked deeper, the undercover reporter saw some abandoned kpokolo on the floor of the dried, dim wooded area. Morris disclosed that it was one of the many locations where Feika worked.

Morris’ comments corroborated Feika’s account and that of the picture he shared with the reporter in Paynesville. Feika had said that he harvested the wood in 2022 but backed off after the supposed ban.

Feika’s new worksites in the pictures were too far for the reporter to venture even for a client. The reporter and Morris decided to head back to the town.

Nevertheless, the pictures already took the undercover reporter to Feika’s new locations. They show piles of kpokolo in the forest, felled logs waiting to be milled, targeted trees for harvesting and timber at a portable sawmill.  One particular picture showed Feika posing for a picture next to another felled tree.  

Logs cut by Michael Feika. Photo credit: Michael Feika

“The ones standing there, I [cut] one down before I could come to Monrovia,” Feika said back in Paynesville, referring to a gigantic tree. “This one is Iroko the white one,” he added, citing a first-class tree species scientifically known as Milicia excelsa, which kpokolo traffickers prefer.   

‘It is easy’

About a 10-minute into their journey back to Totoquelleh, the reporter and Morris saw a score of 12-inch kpokolo that Fofana, Feika’s competitor, harvested.

Not far, lay five others in the middle of a dirt road close to the K.J. Village.  The kpokolo appeared to have fallen off the vehicle transferring them from the forest. Tire impressions show clearly in the sunbaked mud.  

Fofana had disclosed he kept more kpokolo in their conversation before the undercover reporter met Morris.

“The sizes are 50X50, 40X40 and 30X30,” Fofana said at the time. He meant the timber’s dimensions range from 30 to 50 inches in thickness, up to 25 times the authorized size.

“It was produced last month,” Fofana added. 

“When somebody [has a] contract for me, I can do it. That business is a contract. It can come and we discuss it before we do it.” Fofana’s comments had confirmed Feika’s suspicion that other kpokolo operators in Totoquelleh would try to snatch the assumed businessman.

The leftover of a tree harvested by illegal loggers somewhere in Liberia. Photo credit: Michael Feika

Upon his return to Totoquelleh from his Morris-guided tour, the undercover reporter photographed an excavator parked near a truck in an open field.

“You see that car over there,” Fofana said, pointing to the excavator. “It is the one that can hook [the kpokolo and put them in the container].”

‘Not small money’

Thankfully, the pictures Feika shared with the undercover reporter show the entire container-packaging process. Several pictures show the wood being measured with a tape rule. One shows a crane shoving kpokolo into a container, while another reveals two men sealing it up.

“Some of the containers allow eight, 14, 16 and 20 pieces of wood to go in, depending on the sizes of the wood,” Feika said back in Paynesville. He revealed the kpokolo measuring three inches and four-and-a-half inches were the ones now in demand.

Feika said he had stopped producing larger kpokolo due to the ban but was open to cutting them once he got the right offer. “If you want [them]…, it is not small money you will spend,” he said.  

The prices for a container filled with kpokolo are based on the class of the wood. Prices range from US$7,000 to US$12,000, including transportation to Monrovia, according to Feika. Feika’s favorite first-class species apart from Iroko are Afzelia (Afzelia spp), Ekki (Lophira alata), Lovoa (Lovoa trichilioides) and Niangon ( Heritiera utilis). These species are expensive and produce hardwood used for shipbuilding, railroad ties and outdoor construction.

If a client wants just one container, they must pay Feika at least half of their negotiated amount. If the client wants multiple containers, they pay for at least one container upfront.  However, the client must pay the FDA US1,200 for an annual export permit, US$1,000 for the paper and the balance for paperwork, Feika said. Those figures are the same as the ones on the kpokolo permit the FDA issued before the so-called ban.  

Once the container is filled and sealed, Feika makes phone calls to FDA rangers posted on the Bopolu-Monrovia highway via Klay. Feika would not share the rangers’ contact or say their names.

“When I reach the checkpoint, I will say, ‘Yes, I am the one [who has] the wood. Everybody knows me because I have a document from the FDA with a license number assigned to me. I will give them my container serial number and they check it and we pass.”

But Feika warned against double-crossing him to deal with rangers directly. He recounted the story of two Korean illegal loggers, the police commander and other accomplices who were arrested in Klay, Bomi County.

“If the [authorities arrest] you, you are finished because some FDA [agents] will tell you, ‘Come, I will carry [them] for you.’ If you depend on them, you will lose,” Feika said.

Ironically, Feika did not know he was speaking to a reporter of the newspaper that exposed the syndicate. The DayLight would go on to assist a police investigation that led to the men’s arrest and the dismissal of the police commander and an FDA ranger.

Feika’s contacts and influence do not extend to the Freeport of Monrovia but he offered some valuable information. Smugglers must acquire an export permit and find a customs broker at the Freeport of Monrovia to help export the timber. It costs US$1,200 to obtain the export permit certificate from the FDA—US$1,000 for the permit and the balance to secure the document.

Two illegal loggers closing a container. Photo credit: Michael Feika

Once they obtain the permit, they will have to pay the container’s owner US$200 per container and  US$100 for each truck to transport them.

“Forget the shipment of the wood,” Feika reassured. “Once you get money, it is easy.”

His disclosure was not news to the undercover reporter. After all, The DayLight has published illegal permits, receipts and claims by kpokolo exporters in previous investigations. Those publications also revealed the mode of the illegal trade and its ringleaders.

Faika advised his presumed client to ship the wood to Turkey or Germany. “If it is Germany, I will be happy,” he said, “because I have some of my friends in Germany.”

This was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ). Funding for the story was provided by the Kyeema Foundation and Palladium.

Kpokolo: Illegal Logging Returns Despite ‘Ban’


Top: New pieces of kpokolo in Gbaryama, Gbarpolu County. The DayLight/Gabriel Parker

By Esau J. Farr and Philip W. Quwebin

GBARYAMA – People in Gbarpolu are secretly harvesting Kpokolo, a boxlike timber the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) said it banned last year.

In late January, The DayLight photographed newly produced kpokolo in Gbaryama, a town in the Gbarma District about 79 miles from Monrovia. Hundreds of fresh kpokolo were placed on an open field just outside the town.

Townspeople revealed smugglers, who reside outside of the town, hired a gang of chainsaw operators to harvest kpokolo. Once harvested, the woods are transferred by a crane to a pickup, which then brings them to a location. Thereafter, they are loaded onto a container truck at night.

“They can hide it and take it away at night so, people can’t easily see them in the day,” Armah Dukuly, the Town Chief of Gbaryama Town. “We don’t get that power to stop them.”

More than three weeks later, The DayLight revisited Gbaryama and found that the kpokolo had been taken away. Journalists photographed tire impressions matching the description of a truck on the now-cleared field. About 14 pieces of the illegal wood remained there. The illegal loggers had transported the rest.

There were other kpokolo in the forest. DayLight journalists took a 15-minute ride from Gbaryama on a motorcycle taxi to a forest footpath leading into the woods.

In the forest, reporters saw short round logs that were meant to produce kpokolo. Timber remnants could be seen on the floor of the forest. Loud vroom noise from at least four chainsaws buzzed at different locations.  

Dukuly and other chiefs and elders told The DayLight the four men negotiate with farmers in Gbaryama, enter into a verbal agreement and start the harvesting. They said the operators pay the farmers up to L$550 for a piece of kpokolo, corroborating previous reports of locals’ involvement in the illegal trade.

People said the illegal loggers built tents made of tarpaulins in the forest to conduct their operations.

“Most of the time, they are in the forest.],” said Varsay Sirleaf, one of the oldest persons in Gbaryama Sirleaf.

A recent report by the US-based Forest Trends found that kpokolo threatens local communities, chainsaw millers and Liberia’s revenue. It uses the chainsaw milling subindustry to veil its activities, using the same workforce and timber sources, the report said.

But the difference between them is stark. Chainsaw-milled timber measures two inches and below, while Kpokolo can be up to five times thicker, or more. 

A few kpokolo remained in an open field more than three weeks after The DayLight photographed piles of kpokolo there. The DayLight/Esau J. Farr

The kpokolo in Gbaryama were between two and four times the industry-accepted size of chainsaw-milled timber. The ones on the opened field were about six inches thick, based remaining ones there.

‘I felled few’

Four men conduct the kpokolo activities in Gbaryama, three of which The DayLight had previously investigated. The men are Saah Joseph (not the Montserrado lawmaker), one only identified as Sahyo, James Kelley and Richard Flomo.

Joseph has harvested kpokolo in Gbaryama for over two years, according to elders and chainsaw millers. Dukuly said Joseph recently resumed his kpokolo operations in the town after negotiating with some farmers.

The DayLight gathered evidence of Joseph’s illegal activities in December 2022. Locals said a pile of kpokolo in the middle of the town and the forest belonged to him.

“I think he has some in the bush and he is supposed to come for it,” said Molubah Korlubah, a kpokolo logger, who said he worked for Joseph in 2022.  

“The FDA people don’t come here. They focus on the gate,” Korlubah added.

Sahyo is a more conning operator than Korlubah, the evidence suggests. Originally from a town called Supermarket in Bopolu District, Sahyo harvests kpokolo even without the consent of farmers. Dukuly said he had had an encounter with him the night before The DayLight’s third of four visits to the town.  

“I asked him how he entered there to [harvest] kpokolo. And he only said, ‘I entered there, I saw kpokolo and myself [harvested] the logs…. I felled few.’

“Then I asked him, ‘Who [did] you ask?’”

“I stopped him,” Dukuly added.

Morris Kamara, a resident farmer, confirmed Dukuly’s account of Sahyo.

“This year, Sahyo [harvested] in my forest and produced kpokolo there and left,” Kamara revealed. “They have already transported it out of the forest to Monrovia.

“He is presently in another person’s forest producing but I don’t know where.”

Efforts to contact Sahyo and Joseph on their kpokolo operations were unsuccessful. Everyone The DayLight interviewed in Gbaryama said they did not have the duo’s contacts. Follow-up phone calls to other townspeople yielded no other results.

‘From one forest to another’

There were indications Kelley and Flomo were bigger operatives and more familiar with Gbaryama than Joseph and Sahyo.

Kpokolo townspeople said owned by Saah Joseph (not the Montserrado lawmaker) were seen in plain sight in Gbaryama in December 2022.  The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Kelley lodged in a house in the town, where The DayLight interviewed him in December 2022. A middle-aged, light-skinned man, Kelley has been in Gbaryama since September that year, he said at the time.

Dukuly said Kelley asked him recently to harvest kpokolo on his farmland but he disagreed. Kamara and Moses Thompson, another elder, corroborated Dukuly’s account.

“Kelley is here among the [kpokolo operators] but I don’t know whose forest he is working in. They move from one forest to another in search of more woods,” Thompson added.

Kelley’s phone number did not ring when The DayLight tried to contact him. However, in that 2022 interview, he revealed that he had been involved with kpokolo since 2014. He produced kpokolo in Buchanan before coming to Gbaryama.

“Here in Gbaryama, our dimensions were 4X12X9.5 and 4X10X9.5,” Kelley said back in 2022.  He meant four inches thick, 10 or 12 inches wide and nine and a half feet long.

But of all the kpokolo operators in Gbaryama, Flomo appeared to be the kingpin. Every farmer or resident The DayLight interviewed said they knew him. Even Kelley said in that 2022 interview Richard was his boss.

Dukuly said he called Flomo recently and informed him to halt the kpokolo operation but his order fell on deaf ears.

“He said, ‘Oh Chief, that one I just want y’all to give us a chance.’

“I said no. If I see it, you will lose it,’” Dukuly said. He added that Flomo tried to convince that it was the kpokolo operators that risked an arrest, not the townspeople.

Korlubah, the chainsaw miller, said he had harvested a container load of kpokolo for Richard in 2022. “There were 250 pieces of Kpokolo, 4X12 and 4X10,” Korlubah said then, confirming Kelley’s story.

“I worked for him in November. He paid me one piece for LD500.”

People said Flomo combed the region in this pickup in search of forest to produce kpokolo. They said it was he who introduced kpokolo to Gbaryama.

Efforts to contact Flomo did not materialize. No one in Gbaryama said they had his contact and Kelley had refused to share it back in 2022.

Molubah Korlubah, a kpokolo producer in Gbaryama, said he worked for Richard Flomo a kpokolo smuggler. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

‘There is no ban’

In February last year, said it had banned kpokolo. The unofficial pronouncement followed months of reports of widespread kpokolo activities involving the regulator.

Edward Kamara, the FDA manager for forest marketing and revenue forecast said kpokolo had become “prone to illegal exportation.”

The FDA has not published the ban or made awareness of it, except to discuss it in a meeting on Liberia’s timber trade agreement with the European Union last June. Forest Trends called on the Joseph Boakai administration to officiate, publicize and enforce the ban on kpokolo.   

In Gbaryama, people are aware of the so-called ban but chiefs and elders find it difficult to keep the ban.

“If you ban kpokolo in someone’s forest, the forest owner will get vexed [at] you. That person will feel that you want to stop their family’s income,” said Dukuly.

Morris Kamara, the Gbaryama resident, blames the FDA for the illegal activities. “We are getting that information [about banning kpokolo] as rumors. I believe if the FDA banned kpokolo, they could not allow kpokolo to pass [through] their checkpoints.

The FDA has major checkpoints on Bopolu-Monrovia and Tubmanburg-Monrovia highways. There is one each at Sawmill, not far from Gbaryama, and Klay in Bomi—to name two.

“If the people [are] still passing with kpokolo, then it means that [there is no ban] on kpokolo,” Kamara said.

The FDA did not respond immediately to comments. The DayLight will update this story once it does.

[Additional reporting by Gabriel Parker]

This was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ). Funding for the story was provided by the Kyeema Foundation and Palladium.

Illegal Miners Set to Spoil Sacred Creek in Gbarpolu


Top: Men make a dredging machine on the Zormue Creek in Bokomu District, Gbarpolu County after Weedor Gee, the owner, obtained clearance from the local representative of the Ministry of Mines. Picture credit: Korninga A Community Forest 

By James Harding Giahyue

ZORMU, Gbarpolu – Illegal miners are set to dredge a sacred creek in a town in the Bopolu District of Gbarpolu County. 

The miners who work for Weedor Gee, a businesswoman who hails from the region, built dredge on the Tumu Creek. Gee has no prior history of holding a mining license, records of the Ministry of Mines and Energy show. 

Tumu Creek is revered in the Korninga Chiefdom, and it is a sacrilege to even put a canoe over it without a traditional rite, locals say. 

Initial videos and photographs obtained by The DayLight show the miners building the machine. Others taken a week later reveal two miners assembling the makeshift machine on the creek, ready to operate. 

In 2019, the ministry imposed a moratorium on dredging nationwide. The suspension, which is still in place, was meant to curb the pollution of water bodies across the country and the degradation of the rural environment. 

But the dredging and other forms of illicit mining continue to proliferate in remote regions, polluting streams and threatening local traditions.

A copy of a clearance Samuel Fahn, a Ministry of Mines and Energy representative in Bopolu District, Gbarpolu County, issued to Weedor Gee. Gee built a dredge on Tumu Creek, a sacred water in the Konringa Chiefdom.

Samuel Fahn, the mining representative in the region, had issued Gee a clearance late last month. Gee paid Fahn US$400 for the clearance, with both of them confirming the transaction.  

Clearance fees for mining agents are not legal but are accepted by authorities. An outgoing official of the ministry, who asked for anonymity, said it was meant to empower mining agents to function. 

The leadership of the Korninga A Community Forest, in which the creek is located, raised qualms about the dredge, based on the videos and pictures. 

“The document says class C but the materials they are carrying are for dredging,” said Emery Ciapha, the acting chairman of the Korninga A Community Forest. 

“I know that the… Ministry of Mines and Energy is not offering a license for dredging in this country,” Ciapha added in an interview in Tawalata Town. He said he would monitor the situation “closely.”

Gee said in a phone interview that dredging would keep illicit miners away. “We want to stop people from invading our farmland, that is the main issue that carried me there,” she said. 

“It is just to stop people from [encroaching on] the land because if a person gets a license, you cannot stop them from doing what they want to do. 

“If you have the land and get a claim, you can do what you want to do with it,” Gee added. 

Experts say illicit miners or wildcat miners pollute water sources in towns and villages, thanks to the remoteness of these places and corrupt mining authorities. The creek in Tawalata Town in Bopolu District, Gbarpolu County is one of their victims. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Gee disclosed that she had thought about farming but changed her mind to mining based on someone’s advice.  She decided to dredge because it produced quicker results than mining on the land or the banks of the creek. 

A dredge uses a vacuum to suck out mud and debris from the bottom of a water body. Then a water pump removes unwanted sediments and traps gold nuggets on a slanted platform. The process involves less labor but pollutes the water environment and makes it inhabitable for fish, experts say.  

Fahn denies authorizing the businesswoman to dredge the creek. “I did not tell them to use dredge. If I come and see anyone mining with dredge, I will close them down,” he told The DayLight. Fahn had made those comments about a week before The DayLight obtained evidence that Gee built the dredge. 

Gee refutes Fahn’s claims, though.  She counterclaims that he was aware of her intent to dredge the creek from the beginning. She failed to provide any evidence to back that claim. 

“Each time he goes there, he asks, ‘Where is the [dredge’s] key?’ 

“We say, ‘Here is the key. We are not working. “He says, ‘Are you working?’ We say, ‘No, we are working.’” Gee said she did not know dredging was outlawed and Fahn did not inform her. 

A mineworker inspects a frame for a makeshift dredge owned by Weedor Gee, a first-time miner in Zormue Town, Gbarpolu County. Picture credit: Korninga A Community Forest 

Fahn did not answer calls for a reply to Gee’s comments and he did not return the call. However, Fahn said in his original interview that the creek was mentioned so that Gee’s mineworkers could work on the banks of Tumu Creek. 

The clearance also appears to vindicate him. The document marks class C as the license type. Multiple sources familiar with the industry said Fahn mentioned the creek to locate the claim, not to authorize dredging. 

Asked about her relationship with traditional authorities, Gee said she had the support of chiefs and elders as their daughter. 

George Ballah Sumo, the Paramount Chief of Korninga Chiefdom, denies that claim. 

“Nobody has met up with my office about dredging,” Sumo said. “I will not allow people to dredge on that water because it will destroy the water source.” 

Sumo said the community would only accept a medium or large-scale mine there to build its road network. 

Mining on a sacred site without the authorization of local chiefs and elders is prohibited under the Minerals and Mining Law.

Funding for this story was provided by the United States Embassy. The DayLight maintained editorial independence over the story’s content.

Villagers’ Hopes Hang as Loggers Battle in Court


Top: Coveiyalah’s majority and minority shareholders have been in court for about two years, staling the company’s agreement with Korninga A Community Forest. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By Emmanuel Sherman

GIANKPA, Gbarpolu – Villagers celebrated when Korninga “A” Community Forest signed a logging contract with Coveiyalah Investment Enterprise in March 2019.

“Within the next five years, I am hoping to see the community prospering when it comes to roads, sanitation, education and healthcare,” said Armah Johnson, a member of Korninga A’s leadership, at the time.

In the agreement, Korninga A leased Coveiyalah 48,296 hectares of forest in exchange for development. There is even a provision for a wood science college, which campaigners criticized for being “unrealistic.”

Nearly five years on, Johnson and other villagers find themselves longing for even the realistic projects, common to community forest deals. There are no latrines, concrete bridges, health facilities and—obviously—wood science college.

For the last two years, the shareholders of Coveiyalah have been embroiled in a fierce lawsuit, leaving the community without their benefits.  

In 2022, Anthony Urey, Coveiyalah’s 10 percent shareholder, sued Lu Li, the company’s 90 percent shareholder, according to a court document.

The DayLight saw a notice from the Commercial Court in Monrovia at Coveiyalah’s camp in Giankpa, halting its work. The company’s log yard and personnel lodge were all overtaken by bush.

Levi Laban, a former liaison officer with the company said the company left many logs in the bush due to the case.

The court filing posted on an earthmover at the company’s sawmill shows Urey petitioned the court for an indemnity bond and his partner objected. An indemnity bond ensures a remedy against a partner in a contract if that partner fails to uphold their obligations.

Efforts to get the case file did not materialize as the matter is still before the court. Attempts to get it elsewhere proved unsuccessful.

Two years in court has been two years of wait, lack and frustration for Korninga A.

Korninga A Community Forest, which covers 48,296 hectares, signed an agreement with Coveiyalah Investment Enterprise in 2019. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

“There have been no payments done, land rental, [harvesting], or scholarships,” said Emery Ciapha, the head of the community leadership of Korninga A.

Coveiyalah constructed two toilets but the community rejected them. Our reporter who visited Giankpa said grasses overran the facilities due to abandonment.

“That is not what we want,” Ciapha said. “They are not the modern toilets we agreed upon.”

Urey told the community leadership that they would make the payment after the case, according to Ciapha.

It was unclear how much Coveiyalah owes the villagers as Ciapha said he did not have the information. However, an analysis of the company’s previous payments, the agreement, and records of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) places the amount to at least US$66,407 in land rental fees, US$55,058 in harvesting fees and US$30,000 in scholarships. That is US$151,465 in total.

Emery Ciapha, the head of an ad-hoc leadership of Korninga A Community Forest in Bokomu District, Gbarpolu County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Urey did not respond to The DayLight’s inquiries on Korninga A and the case with his partners.

The case is the latest of Korninga A’s nightmares. In 2022, the leaders of the forest misused US$76,000 and were jailed for it.

With the case still not being finalized, the FDA and civil society conducted an election in which Ciapha was elected head of an interim committee in September last year. It has a six-month mandate.

The community must review the agreement with Coveiyalah in May. In forestry, the community has the right to sign a 15-year agreement with the FDA to comanage its forest. Thereafter, villagers can sign a third-party agreement with a logging company of their choice with the FDA’s approval. Then every five years, they are required to review the third-party agreement.

Ciapha said Korninga would push to cancel the contract with Coveiyalah.

“Time is about to elapse for the revision of the document, which is May 25,” Ciapha said. “We are not thinking about the renewal of their contract after review because implementation is poor.”

Community Forest Cancels Contract with Company


Top: Korninga B Community Forest covers 31,318 hectares in the Bokomu District of Gbarpolu County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By Esau J. Farr

MANOWALLAH, Gbarpolu County – A community forest has canceled its contract with a logging company after denying locals their benefits and development.

Korninga B Community Forest in Bokomu District, Gbarpolu County had sued Indo Africa Plantation Limited for a breach of the agreement, according to court documents. The company reneged on the terms of the agreement and denied it several benefits and undermined development which led to a lawsuit.

“The third-party forest management agreement is hereby declared canceled as though same has never existed among and between the parties…,” said Judge Zubullah Kizeku of the 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Bopolu in its summary judgment ruling. A summary judgment is a final decision made by a court based on the statements and evidence without going to trial.

Aaron Mulbah, the chief officer of Korninga B, said he was happy the community has gotten back their forest.

“It didn’t come to me as a surprise, because of the proper documentation of our issues with Indo Africa and records shown [in] court,” Mulbah said.

Indo Africa did not respond to queries.

Korninga B signed a 14-year agreement with Indo Africa, a firm owned by a Singaporean family, the Guptas. Korninga B leased its 31,318-hectare forest to Indo Africa for a forest contract.

The company agreed to pay Korninga B US$46,977 as a land rental fee, US$30,000 for scholarships and  US$25,000 for medical each year.

The company further promised to construct two handpumps in each town, a youth centre and a paramount chief’s office for affected communities.

But up to four years later, the company failed to harvest a single log to make the payments. That failure violated a clause in its contract and a provision in the Community Rights Law, prompting the lawsuit. The law requires companies to begin harvest within 18 months after the signing of the agreement.     

In all, Korninga B received US$65,000 in land rental fees from Indo Africa, according to Mulbah.

The community used the fund to begin the construction of a guesthouse in Henry Town, the region’s most populated place.

Mambutu Dukuly, another community leader, said that based on their experience with Indo-Africa they would conduct background checks on companies before awarding any future contracts.  

“We will be looking at their financial strength, records of work, relationship with communities and… payment…,” Dukuly said.

The cancellation of the deal, however, means affected communities still do not have a school or a clinic. Schoolchildren have to walk a long distance to Henry Town as Bopolu is even farther. 

Patience Kumakeh, one of the decision-makers for Korninga B, said that will feature high in their next agreement.

“The community will be looking up to any company that will be willing to provide road reconditioning, the construction of clinics, school handpumps and educational support.”

Korninga B is not Indo Africa’s only failure. The company also abandoned a contract with Bondi Mandingo in Gbarpolu in the Bopolu District. It and Sing Africa, another company owned by the Guptas, are listed in a recent forestry review and are dormant.

Funding for this story was provided by the Kyeema Foundation and Palladium. The DayLight maintained editorial independence over the story’s content.

Forest Community Rejects Bea Mountain Settlement of US$6.3M Lawsuit  


Top: Korninga B Authorized Forest Community has sued Bea Mountain Mining Corporation for US$4.3 million in damages for alleged illegal entry and destruction of its woodland. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By Esau J. Farr

TUBMANBURG, Bomi County – A community forest in Gbarpolu County has rejected Bea Mountain Mining Corporation’s proposal for a settlement in a US$6.3 million lawsuit against the company.

Bea Mountain proposes to pay the Korninga B Community Forest  US$100,000, a US$65,000 mobile sawmill and a pair of chainsaws, according to the proposed settlement document seen by The DayLight.

Korninga B and Bea Mountain had agreed to the settlement in 2022 but the company pulled out of the arrangement, prompting the community to go to court. Locals filed for US$6.3 million action of damages over Bea Mountain’s alleged unauthorized entry and destruction of the forest.

Under the settlement agreement, seen by The DayLight, Bea Mountain offers to pay Korninga in two installments. The company agrees to deploy five staff to train the same number of townspeople to operate the sawmill, according to the document.

The settlement proposal also prohibits Bea Mountain from working in the forest and gives Korninga possession of the trees that Bea Mountain cleared.

Aaron Mulbah, the chief officer of Korninga, said they rejected the proposal because they had incurred expenses as a result of their lawsuit. “They have to go above that,” Mulbah told The DayLight.

Cllr. Kunkunyon Wleh Teh, Bea Mountain’s lead lawyer, declined an interview with The DayLight.

Verdict and Retrial

Korninga B’s lawsuit accuses Bea Mountain of felling over 2,800 logs to make a passage through the 78,624-acre forest in the Bokomu District to its mining sites, according to court documents. Bea Mountain is also accused of harvesting logs from the area to construct bridges, throwing some in valleys while burying others.

The company denies any wrongdoing, saying it only mined in areas covering its licenses, and that the community should instead pay it damages for allegedly obstructing its operations.

Following more than five months of legal battle, a six-man jury found Bea Mountain liable for wrongdoing.  

But the court granted Bea Mountain’s petition for a retrial on grounds that jurors failed to take witnesses’ testimonies into account and ignored inconsistencies in testimonies, calling the US$5 million damages “grossly disproportionate.”

In early March 2022, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation allegedly illegally entered the Korninga B Community Forest in Bokomu District and felled several trees.

Under the Community Rights Law…, locals own and comanage forests adjacent to their communities alongside the Forestry Development Authority (FDA). The law is a breakaway from the past, where only the government and companies had a say in forestry. It guarantees locals’ right to forestland and prohibits unauthorized entry and use of forest resources.

The Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County, from where the case was transferred to Tubmanburg, Bomi County. The DayLight/Dougba McCay

Before going to court, Korninga informed Bea Mountain of its ownership of the forest and Bea Mounting’s alleged illegal actions. The two parties agreed that the company would pay the community US$165,000 for the damages and other things.

Ruth Varney, a representative of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in the western region, had compiled a report on the alleged damages with the company’s funds, court documents show.  

But Bea Mountain pulled out of the arrangement, which also included Keyah Saah, the Superintendent of Gbarpolu County. Angered by that, Korninga filed a US$4.3 million lawsuit against the company at the 16th Judicial Circuit Court in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County.

Bea Mountain’s defense team asked the court to dismiss the case. Its lawyers argued that locals did not have the right to sue the company and that it had legal mining licenses to operate in that area.

The three medium-scale mines in question are located in the same region as the Korninga B Community Forest. The licenses of two of the mines are held by MNG Gold, a company owned by Mehmet Nazif Günal, the Turkish billionaire who also owns Bea Mountain. The license for the other is held by Gbarpolu Mining Corporation, a Liberian-owned firm.

Prosecution lawyers led by Atty. Alston Armah asked the court not to grant the defense lawyers’ petition. Prosecution lawyers argued that Korninga had the authority to file the lawsuit. They added that the mining licenses were not owned by Bea Mountain.

The court in Bopolu agreed with Korninga and denied Bea Mountain’s petition, and the case proceeded. However, it was transferred to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Tubmanburg, Bomi County after another petition by defense lawyers.

Bea Mountain has proposed to give Korninga B US$100,000, and other things as a settlement in a lawsuit against it. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

There, prosecution lawyers told the court Bea Mountain broke the Community Rights Law… “The destruction of the forest with no knowledge of the legal community forest is causing [the community] pain, suffering, mental anguish and distress,” one court filing read.

Lawyers of Bea Mountain counterargued that the company and a partner legally obtained the three mining licenses it operates in that region. They said the Korninga forest leadership did not have the authority to sue the company, only its ancestral land leadership had. They said the investigation conducted by Varney was not legal or binding because she was not authorized to do so.

The court heard testimony from Yanquoi Dolo, the head of the FDA’s legal department. “The FDA did not communicate any official assessment report involving Korninga B Community Forest,” Dolo told the jurors.

Following final arguments, the six-man jury handed down a unanimous verdict against Bea Mountain in October last year. The jurors held Bea Mountain liable for US$1,311,401.21 in special damages and US$3 million in general damages.

Three days after the ruling, the company filed a petition for a new trial, citing inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies and that the jurors ignored some of their evidence.

Prosecution lawyers argued that documentary evidence and testimonials were sufficient to have the company liable for the damages. They said the jurors’ guilty verdict matched the evidence produced during the trial.

But, this time, the court ruled in favor of Bea Mounting, ordering a retrial. Judge Ciapha Carey said the inconsistencies favored the company as well as the fact not all the trees in question were scaled.

Unsatisfied with the ruling, lawyers representing Korninga B  petitioned the Supreme Court for a review of the case. The high court affirmed Carey’s ruling for a  new trial.

Mulbah said Korninga was awaiting a retrial.

“We are asking international partners, NGOs to help the community people in our case with Bea Mountain,” Mulbah said. “Bea Mountain feel that they have money… but the law is there.

The law will provide for us.”

Man Drowns in Mining Water


Top: A townsman looks at the body of Prince Hali, a 20-something-year-old artisanal mineworker who drowned in a mining pit in Belle Yalla over the weekend. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By Esau J. Farr and Charles Gbayor

BELLE YALLA – A man believed to be in his 20s has drowned in a huge mining water in Gbarpolu County.

Prince Hali, an artisanal mineworker, drowned in a mining pit in Belle Yalla over the weekend. A 15-townsman jury found no foul play in Hali’s death.

“We are told that he went to wash himself and drowned,” Vincent Abban, Gbarpolu County’s chief investigator, told The DayLight. “From what I have seen, there was no foul play and the body is intact.”

Eyewitnesses said Hali and other miners had gone to bathe in the mine pit water late afternoon last Friday. The other miners watched in horror as their colleague disappeared into the water.

“We saw the other man running coming and told us that since [Hali] fell into the water he hadn’t been seen,” said Samuel Cole, a friend of Hali.

A relative of Prince Hali, a mineworker who drowned in a mining pit in Bella Yalla, is helped from the scene after his body was discovered on Saturday. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

A search party comprising the police, townsmen and members of Belle Yalla’s community watch team took a day to find Hali’s body. Volunteers had to pump out water from the pit to find his body at the bottom of the pit water.

One of Hali’s relatives wept a river as the search party discovered her brother’s corpse and was helped away from the scene. “I came to visit you and this is how you welcome me,” the woman could be heard crying as she was led away.

The news spread grief throughout Belle Yalla, a township infamous for hosting a prison that held political prisoners up to 1990.  

The mining pit in which he drowned was left behind by the Randell and Oretha Doe Multipurpose Company, a firm operating in that region. The company had diverted the Manneh Creek, the major source of water for Belle Yalla’s 3,600 people, for a medium-scale mine.

The company’s operations have changed the way of life here, with water scarce most of the year, Peter Flomo, the commissioner of the township. As a result, people have turned to the pit to wash and bath, he added.

Randell Doe, an executive of the company, did not immediately respond to queries. The DayLight will update this story once he does.

Pallbearers carried Hali’s body high on a platform to his grave following a brief funeral ritual. He was buried Saturday, just a stone’s throw from the ill-fated mine pit by the local tradition.

Funding for this story was provided by the United States Embassy in Monrovia. The DayLight maintained editorial independence over the story’s content.

Commissioner Extorts Wood Dealers To ‘Repair Road’


Top: The Commissioner of Gbarma Alfred O. Bah illegally imposed L$500 on trucks transporting planks from Gbarpolu County. The police may have taken advantage of Bah’s wood truck restriction to allegedly solicit a bribe from transporters. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue 

By James Harding Giahyue and Tenneh Keita

GBARMA DISTRICT, Gbarpolu – Three or four years ago, Alfred Bah, the Commissioner of Gbarma District, decided to collect money for trucks transporting wood from the western county.  

“When I took office, I was informed that the outgoing commissioner used to at least talk to the [wood dealers] … for district development,” Bah recalled in an interview at his office. “Whether I could do the same, I said ‘yes.’  For me, what I will do I will call the [wood dealers for] a meeting.’”

The meeting was held and the parties agreed that trucks carrying wood from Gbarpolu must pay L$500. The money would be used to repair a major stretch of road linking Gbarma to other parts of the county. 

That day, Bah added to a list of county officials who misuse their power to exploit wood dealers across the country. The officials do not have the authority to impose a fee on wood or other goods, according to the Local Government Act and the Chainsaw Milling Regulation. The former law restricts such function to county councils, governance bodies which have not yet been formed in most counties, including Gbarpolu. The latter empowers the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and local communities or private landowners. 

This is The DayLight’s third story on the subject after an August investigation exposed the involvement of the Superintendent of Lofa County William Tamba Kamba in the illegal deal. The first implicated a regional collector of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA). The series sheds a light on an unregulated subsector of forestry engrossed in corruption and impunity. 

An unissued receipt created by the Commissioner of Gbarma Alfred O. Bah and a representative of local plank producers meant for trucks carrying wood and other goods as part of a so-called scheme to repair a major route in Gbarpolu County. 

‘L$500 for each trip’

Varney Freeman, a representative of plank dealers in Gbarpolu, worked with to Bah organize the scheme. They imposed L$500 on each truck carrying wood. A vacant receipt we obtained brandishes: “Gbarpolu Road Maintenance Official Receipt” and “L$500 for each trip.” 

Freeman was responsible to make other plank dealers comply, though aware that the fee was illegal. “The [Commissioner] doesn’t have the legal power to impose fees on trucks plying the county’s roads but we are businesspeople,” Freeman said in an interview on his farm in Okai Village in November last year. Gbarpolu is one of the most forested regions in Liberia and a goldmine for many wood dealers. They are known in forestry as chainsaw millers from their use of the handheld device to make planks. 

“If we want to fight all the legal things, we will not get our business going,” Freeman added.  

So, trucks carrying wood began to pay the fee. A subbranch of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) at Sawmill on the Bopolu highway collected the fees, according to Bah and Freeman. Rangers at the subbranch corroborated their story. 

Bah claims he collected between L$16,000 and US$17,000 only, which was used to repair the road. Gbarpolu Superintendent Keyah Saah dismissed the claim, saying he (Saah) organized the youth to rehabilitate it instead. 

The FDA rightfully collects US$0.60 on each plank transported across the country. However, those payments are not turned over to the Liberia Revenue Authority, the agency of the government that collects taxes. There is no public record the FDA accounts for the funds. It took the agency more than a decade to devise a regulation for the subsector yet it is not enforcing it. Such lawlessness makes it easy for Bah’s toll system and other illegalities to succeed. 

But Bah’s system soon encountered a problem that would ultimately lead to its end, at least openly. First, some wood truckers refused to pay, arguing they did not take their planks from Gbarma and could not pay the district any toll. Second, there issues about the receipt capturing the entire county rather than just Gbarma. And dealers argued their vehicles were smaller than those of logging companies, several of whom operate in Gbarpolu. 

“I insisted that I will not pay the L$1,500,” said Kent Mamay, a plank dealer in the VOA Community. “There was a heated argument between them and myself and at the end of the day they were able to release my truck.” 

Amid the pressure, Bah halted the collection last year. He claims Gbarpolu County Assistant Superintendent for Development Joseph Akoi had ordered him to do so to avoid further problem. Akoi denies that, telling The DayLight in an interview in Bopolu he had not heard of a plank toll in Gbarma. 

But plank dealers and drivers The DayLight interviewed said they still paid the fee while the system was halted. Varney Tulay, another wood dealer in VOA, said no receipts were being issued this time around. 

Gbarpolu County, largely covered with forests, is a workplace for many plank dealers or chainsaw millers. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue
Wood truckers protested a toll system established by the Commissioner of Gbarma, Gbarpolu in which they had to pay L$500 to ply a major route in the county. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue 

“Like four to five months ago, they have stopped issuing receipts,” said Tulay in a September interview with The DayLight. “I came a month ago, last month August, and the [Commissioner] toll was paid…” Bah denies Tulay’s claim. 

‘Let [all] the vehicles pass’ 

After the protest, Bah ordered the police detail at Sawmill not to allow any wood truck ply that route during the rainy season last year. He repeated that this year, power a commissioner does not have. 

“With [an immediate] order, please stop all heavy equipment, wood trucks and coal trucks from using the main road from Bomi to Gbarpolu,” this year’s communication posted on the wall of the police detail read. It excluded vehicles transporting petroleum and food items. 

Bah said his action was not a reaction to the wood truck drivers’ protest but the aspiration of the community.   “The citizens are complaining that if people [do] not stop using this road and damaging the road they would demonstrate and I don’t want them to demonstrate,” he said. 

Asked why he did not inform the Ministry of Public Works about the road situation and about the illegality of his order, Bah said he did not know how to contact the ministry. “I don’t have the authority now to say I’m going to meet [the] public work minister to say ‘My feeder road is damaged and I want you to go fix it,’” Bah said. “It is not so easy, except where we are call in a workshop maybe I can raise this concern there maybe it can be looked [into].” 

Bah might have halted collections but perhaps unscrupulous police officers are allegedly taking advantage of his order to exploit wood dealers. During the day, they pretend to enforce the illegal order but solicited a bribe from wood truckers at night and allow them to pass. Residents of Sawmill, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, spoke of long queues of trucks that formed up to dusk and disappeared by dawn. 

Wood dealers, who backed up the residents’ account, dared to speak out. 

“They will demand us that the car can’t go. Then, certain time of the night, they will free us,” Tulay the VOA dealer told The DayLight. “Sometimes we pay L$2,500 at the gate just for the car to go.” Tulay said he reluctantly paid that and other fees and increased the prices of his planks. Furniture-makers we interviewed said they were buying wood at higher prices compared to previous years. 

Murphy Collins, the acting police commander at the Sawmill detail, neither denied nor confirm the claim. However, Collins disclosed that officers collected L$600 from trucks passing through the checkpoint, something Tulay and other dealers had mentioned. He said he used the money to run a generator and for other things.   “At night, we collect those small money and put it in our coffers to buy gas on a regular basis,” Collins said.  

Aware of its turnout, his vehicle restriction has caused, Bah now wants to rescind it. In fact, he may have already chosen the wordings for that communication to Collins.

“Since you don’t want to give me the respect, you’re allowing this act, then let [all] the vehicles pass,” Bah told The DayLight.  

“Sometime when you’re a leader [and] you’re not careful how to do things, …your name can [ be spoiled].”

The story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ). It was originally published by the Daily Observer, an editorial partner of The DayLight. 

More People Flee Elephants


Top: A pair of elephants in Grand Gedeh. The DayLight/Harry Browne

By Mark B. Newa

GBARMA, Gbarpolu – In June, Boakai Momo and 14 other members of his family fled the Bongomah village from a herd of elephants.

The elephant had eaten his rice and potato farms, turning the once flush greenery into dirt in one night.

“There is no more safe area to make farm,” Momo tells The DayLight in an interview at his refuge in the town of Zuo.  “People want to make farms but when the elephants start coming, they will make things hard for us.”

Momo says more than a hundred people have fled their villages from the invading elephants, something other displaced farmers corroborate. Three of the five clans in Gbarma Chiefdom, according to  Paramount Chief Henry Cooper, have been affected. Among the affected villages are Bongomah, Gbengar, Gbarlomehn, Jarjuah, Todeemehn and a place locals call Africa.

All the victims have the same story as Momo’s. An elderly woman named Fatu Lomehn, a widow and mother of 12 children and grandchildren, ran from the Gbarlomehn. Morris Tarweh, a young farmer abandoned the Yarjuah village because the elephants made it “scary.” George Anderson of the Torgboima clan, fled with his family to a new location when the herds damaged eight acres of cassava.  Abraham Clarke, a father of six, fled Africa to Daniel village and then to Zuo.  

A sanctuary—for now

Zuo might be a sanctuary for the displaced villagers. The largest town in that region, with the bulk of its estimated 1,900 people are farmers.  However, it is also not safe from the herds.  In fact, they have already begun visiting farms here.

Townspeople in Zuo are worried.  Some of them had just finished plowing their farms when elephants ravaged them in late June.  A week earlier, the herds had ravaged a farm about a 30-minute walk from Zuo.

The elephants travel from the Bopolu District and cross the Maher River to their communities and back each year, locals say. In the last five years or so, the tuskers have, however,  frequented their daily and nightly raids.  A trail of footprints and elephant dung is seen on one potato and rice farm. Two farmsteads are abandoned.  

“They are getting closer to us now. When they cannot find food there, they will enter on us in this town,” says George Anderson, a farmer. “This is their eating place now.”

Elephants eat according to their bodies. The animals eat up to 169 kilograms (375 pounds) of food daily, according to experts. Fruits, vegetables, grasses, leaves and roots form a big part of their everyday menu.

Experts blame farming, hunting and mining for what they call the human-elephant conflict.  

“When the villagers are making farms on the elephants’  tracks, we will see them appearing,” according to Raymond Kpoto of the Society for the Conservation of Nature Liberia (SCNL).

Elephants dumped their dung after eating from a potato farm that lies less than a kilometer away from Zuo, a town located between Gbarma and Weasuo. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa
Villager and his grandson holding the residue of rice the passing herds of elephants have eaten. The herds ate off the fresh green leaves of a rice field. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa

There is an atmosphere of insecurity in Zuo due to the elephant situation. Villagers are afraid to go into the forest, affecting farming and other activities.  

Recently, one farmer who had gone to harvest palm fruit sat in the tree for nearly six hours, Clarke tells me in a phone interview.

Motorcycle taxi drivers are afraid to ply the routes for fear of encountering the animals, with few plying the routes, according to villagers.  

This has led to a surge in the costs of rice, gasoline and transportation, locals say.  

No Compensation

Villagers say they have used other means to cope but all seem not to work. They clang pots, blow horns and burn pepper. Some have even installed solar lamps on farms but not enough to drive away their unwelcome tusked guests.

In the first quarter of this year, the Elephant Research and Conservation (ELRECO), a German NGO, successfully tested a device with the sound of honeybees. In the video posted to the NGO’s website, an elephant is seen walking away after hearing the buzzing sound of honeybees from BuzzBox. However, villagers in the region say they have no idea about the technology.

Satta Mambu, an influential woman in Zuo, urges the government to set up a program to help them repel elephants.

“When the government [does] not come in, in the next four to five years, the elephants will drive us from here,” Clarke says.

There is no compensation for villagers who have lost farms to elephants, according to Saah David, national coordinator of REDD+ at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA). REDD+ means Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.  

Melvin Goeh, a ranger at FDA’s checkpoint in Sawmill, says his unit is not aware of the elephant situation in the region. Sawmill is less than 10 kilometers away from Zuo.

Alfred Bai Commissioner of Gbarma District, says his office is not aware of any elephant situation. He promises to follow up on the matter.

Funding for this story was provided by Wild Philanthropy with the support of the Elephant Protection Initiative Foundation (EPI). The DayLight maintained complete editorial independence over the story’s content.

Korean Illegal Logging Web Not Yet Indicted


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.

One of the trucks of illegal logs in Sawmill, Gbarpolu County. The truck has been allowed to leave, with the logs kept in at the FDA sub-office. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

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).