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Korean Illegal Logging Web Not Yet Indicted

Police officers at the Supreme Court of Liberia

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).

Impact: Arrest Warrant for Members of Illegal Logging Network Exposed by The DayLight

Police officers at the Supreme Court of Liberia

Top: The Temple of Justice in Monrovia. Picture credit: Reuters/James Harding Giahyue

By Gabriel M. Dixon

MONROVIA – The Monrovia City Court has issued an arrest warrant for 10 people for their alleged involvement in unlawful logging activities, first revealed to the public in an investigation by The DayLight.   

They include Dawoda Sesay, a former police commander, Varney Marshall, a former ranger with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and Beomjin Lee, a Korean national. 

They have been charged with property theft, forgery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation and bribery. A police inquest found the men felled a number of first-class logs in Gbarpolu County and attempted to ship them through the Freeport of Monrovia.   

“These people will go in the bushes fell the trees, cut the logs, and use bogus documents in order to evade taxes, and will use those documents to ship the containers of logs out of Liberia,” Police Inspector General Patrick Sudue told a news conference last week.

The DayLight had broken the story and went on to assist the police in their investigation, providing them with important pieces of information that would lead to the charges.

The newspaper, which focuses on environmental investigations, first published on 14th August last year that the FDA had arrested three container trucks loaded with illegally harvested timber nearly a month earlier.

The paper would go on to publish a detailed account of the illicit activity that same month, naming members of the syndicate and the role they played in the illegal harvest. Not long after that, the FDA petitioned the circuit courts in Bomi and Gbarpolu to auction the logs, orders it is yet to be granted.

The DayLight also published a leaked video, revealing Marshall’s own illegal logging operations. Marshall can be held in the video complaining over his accomplice’s attempt to cheat him while filming huge piles of boxlike wood, commonly called “Kpokolo.” Pictures apparently taken by another accomplice show the depth of Marshall’s criminal operations, including loads of containers of kpokolo.

On Monday, the FDA announced it has dismissed Marshall, citing the report and charges against him at the Monrovia City Court. “A video circulated on social media and reported by The DayLight online media captured Mr. Marshal’s open engagement in illegal logging activities, a vice he was hired to prevent and combat,” the FDA said in a statement. It added that Marshall had admitted in an inhouse probe.

FDA also said it has suspended Edward Jallah without pay, another FDA ranger captured in The DayLight’s initial report that eventually led to the city court’s charges.