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FDA Submits to Court’s Order to Allow Export of US$4M Illegal Logs

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Top: Some of the illegally harvested logs. Picture credit: Independent Forest Monitoring Coordination Mechanism


By James Harding Giahyue


BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa County – The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has accepted a Supreme Court mandate to allow a company to export a huge consignment of logs it had illegally harvested. It brings to a close more than one year of a legal battle that has shed light on widespread irregularities in Liberia’s forestry sector.   

The Second Judicial Circuit Court in Upper Buchanan had issued an arrest warrant for officials of the FDA after it failed to adhere to the high court’s decision to uphold the lower court’s ruling in favor of Renaissance Inc. The firm had sued the FDA after the agency seized some 14,000 cubic meters of logs valued at an estimated US$4.17 million.

Sheriffs last week arrested Atty. Gertrude Nyaley, the technical manager of FDA’s legality verification department (LVD), which manages the system that tracks logs harvested and exported out of Liberia. Nyaley was later released on bail by her lawyers, with the agency scheduled to appear before the lower court on Monday, according to court filings.

At the proceedings on Monday, Cllr. Abraham Sillah, the head of the FDA legal team, asked the court for 10 days for the export to happen. The court granted that petition, fining Nyaley, Harrison Karnwea, the chairman of its board of directors, Managing Director Mike Doryen and his two deputies, US$300 each. It also fined Cllr. Yanquoi Dolo, FDA in-house lawyer, US$100. It said it would jail officials of the agency if the logs were not shipped by that time.

“No department of the government other than the Judiciary shall exercise judicial function,” Judge Peabody said, according to court documents. “The [actions] of the Forestry Development Authority and its managers are usurping the functions and have interfered with and is an act of reviewing the judgment of the Supreme Court and this court.”     

The court also accepted the FDA’s request not to export the controversial logs through the tracking system called LiberTrace. The computerized system uses barcodes to trace timber from its sources to its final destinations. It is an integral part of Liberia’s forestry reform agenda, a foothold of the country’s trade agreement with the European Union, called the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

“I am happy that the law is about to take its course,” said Aaron George, Renaissance’s CEO in a mobile phone interview.

Renaissance won the case after the court upheld a six-man jury unanimous verdict to allow Renaissance to export the logs. The court agreed with the company that disallowing its logs from being shipped having already paid a US$105,000 fine would have amounted to a double punishment or double jeopardy. It is a defense in Liberian law that prevents a person from being tried again for the same offense.    

After that verdict, the FDA filed an appeal at the Supreme Court, which was followed by a Renaissance motion for dismissal. The FDA did not respond to that petition, leaving the high court to dismiss the appeal.

“The agencies of the government of Liberia, though exempted from filling an appeal bond, they are required to strictly abide by the other mandatory steps enumerated in the appeal statute for the completion of an appeal,” the Supreme Court said in the ruling on November 4 last year.

Renaissance Inc. harvested the logs outside its concession area known in the logging industry as timber scale contract area two or TSC A2, located in Compound Number Two, Grand Bassa County. Lacking a trace, FDA technicians found it impossible to register the wood into LiberTrace. Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), a Swiss firm that co-manages the system, declined to enroll the timber, drawing the Supreme Court’s ire.

Monday’s decision is expected to anger more than a dozen international NGOs who called on the FDA to remain firm in its decision not to allow the logs to be exported. They come from the United States, European Union countries, the United Kingdom, and China three regions with a vested interest in Liberia’s forestry sector, investing millions.

“We are encouraged by the FDA taking action to stop illegally sourced timber being exported, and strongly support its staffs’ actions,” the organizations said in a joint statement on Sunday.

“We are extremely disturbed that the Liberian courts, instigated by logging company Renaissance, seem intent to punish FDA staff for doing their duty,” the statement added.

In 2021, an investigation by a group of civil society organizations found that Renaissance Inc. had harvested the logs under the pretext that it was paving a road in that area. It said all the logs were ekki wood (Lophira alata), first-class redwood currently selling for US$298 on the international market.

Two years before that, Société Française de Réalisation, d’Etudes et de Conseil (SOFRECO), a European Union-commissioned auditor based in Paris, urged the Ministry to investigate TSC A2.

This map shows the boundary of TSC-A2 and where Renaissance cut down the trees. Picture credit: Independent Forest Monitoring Coordination Mechanism

“The mere fact that an operator took the risks of felling such an important volume of logs illegally provides a high probability that the operator was confident in the possibility to export the illegal logs, which raises questions for further consideration,” SOFRECO said in a November 2019 letter to major players in the forestry sector.

The ministry investigated the illegal harvesting but has not published its report for over three years on. The international NGOs called on the ministry to release the document.

“We call upon the Government of Liberia to follow the law, publish the official investigation report by the Ministry of Justice into the Renaissance case, and use the evidence provided in this report, to guide their decisions,” the group said.

Minister of Justice  Cllr. Musa Dean told The DayLight “Findings [of the report] were released to the appropriate agency and all concerned.”

In March last year, the FDA canceled TSC A2 and six others in Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bong after they outstayed their legal lifespan. Communities affected by TSC A2 and the other concessions have not received their benefits.

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

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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.

FDA ‘Aide’ And LRA Agent Help Smuggle Planks to Sierra Leone

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Top: A Sierra Leonean truck awaits locals in Vahun, Lofa County to smuggle planks into the neighboring country. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By James Harding Giahyue


  • A self-proclaimed aide of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and a customs officer collect fees on planks exported to Sierra Leone through Vahun, Lofa County
  • But the export of such woods is strictly prohibited under forestry legal frameworks
  • The smuggling of planks is an open secret and has been going on in that region for years
  • Vahun’s bad road networks and its closeness to Sierra Leone fuel the illicit trade
  • The FDA said it is investigating the matter

VAHUN, Lofa County – Planks produced in Liberia are not allowed to be exported. They are made solely to support construction works within the country since round logs are meant entirely for foreign markets.

But that rule does not apply in Vahun, Lofa County’s district on Liberia’s northwest border with Sierra Leone. Locals here smuggle planks in broad daylight, thanks to agents of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

Instead of blocking the trafficking of wood, the agents do the exact opposite. Abraham Konneh, a villager who claims to be an aide, gets unspecified amounts on consignments of planks crossing the border. Richard Gbargondah, the LRA chief collector in that region, collects L$20 on each wood.

“The FDA people are aware that we sell the wood in Sierra Leone. LRA and the police, too,” said  Daoda Kromah, a chainsaw miller in the region.  The FDA and the LRA get toll.” Daoda Kromah is not his real. His and the names of other chainsaw millers in this story have been changed to protect them from any reprisals.

The DayLight obtained a number of receipts of the illegal transactions. That was also corroborated by chiefs, elders, and plank makers, known in the forestry sector as pit-sawyers or chainsaw millers. The term “chainsaw millers” come from the millers’ use of chainsaws or power saws. “Pit-sawyers” connotes a centuries-old method of producing planks with a handheld saw by placing a tree trunk over a pit.   

It appeared the isolated nature of Vahun, one of the most forested places in Liberia, plays a part in the plank scam. The district is cut off from other parts of Lofa due to its bad road networks. People here conduct all of their businesses across the border, including the purchases of gasoline and spare parts for chainsaws. In fact, they even use Leone,  the Sierra Leonean currency.

‘Just a token’

“Please allow the [bearer] of this document to carry his truck of planks,” Konneh said to the Vahun police depot in a note, seen by The DayLight. It was in reference to 200 planks that were to be trafficked on March 23 earlier this year.

Konneh said Ben Miller, an FDA ranger assigned at the Proposed Wonegizi Nature Reserve, appointed him as an aide, a claim supported by other villagers. He said he collected up to 200,000 Leones (L$1,700) on each transport of planks to Sierra Leone.

“The sawyers themselves declare [their production] and give what they have,” Konneh said in an interview. “Sometimes they don’t pay. It is just a token.”  We caught up with Miller 139 miles away in Konia but he declined an interview.  

Locals smuggle planks across Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone via Vahun, Lofa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Gbargondah’s LRA scam is more organized than Konneh’s FDA profiteering. It all started with a meeting on tax collection Gbargondah organized some time ago. He had convinced locals that paying taxes would record Vahun’s contribution to the Liberian government’s revenue.

“I did not want to be counted among the unproductive custom officers,” said Gbargondah, who controls the tax region from Barziwen, Zorzor District to the Sierra Leonean border in Vahun.

People started to comply with the tax code, including Gbargondah’s illegal plank scheme. He charges L$20 on each plank and only allows records from 100 pieces and above. Unlike the FDA agent, he provides official LRA receipts to make the payments look genuine, deceiving the townspeople that the money they pay goes into the government’s revenue.  

Gbargondah claimed that he started to collect the duties on planks just four months ago. However, receipts of some of the illegal transactions show earlier dates. He collected L$8,000 on 1,000 planks valued at L$533,333.99 on May 14, 2022, for example, according to one of the documents.   

Also, the procedure for payment in Gbargondah’s scheme is a red flag. Invoices for the exportation of timber do not come from the LRA. They are generated within the chain of custody, a system that tracks the wood from their sources to the buyers, and has become to be a game-changer in Liberia’s quest to tackle illegal logging. It is a major component of Liberia’s trade agreement with the European Union, known as the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

‘We are not happy’

Vahun’s chainsaw millers said they were aware planks are not to be sold on foreign soil but had no option. Predominantly farmers and gardeners, incomes from smuggled planks help them clean their farms and take care of household needs, according to them. They said they sell construction and furniture woods between L$600 and L$1,400 in Leones. Ishmael Kamokai, a chainsaw miller in a town called Folima told The DayLight his main customer was a woman in the Sierra Leonean city of Kenema he only named Lucia.

Piles of newly milled planks lined up the route to the border in the Guma Mande Clan. Rotting planks, blackened from years of rain and sunbath, could be seen nearly everywhere on the 30-mile road.

A heavy truck with a Sierra Leonean license plate was parked in Folima. Kromah, Kamokai and townspeople interviewed said the vehicle crossed the border nearly every week, transporting up to 250 planks per trip. It is the most infamous of all the smuggling vehicles. Ibrahim Sannoh, its driver, evaded an interview.   

“We are not happy as Liberians to take the resources of the country to carry in Sierra Leone but no other way,” said Kamokai.  

“Vahun has lots of resources, including diamonds, gold and other things. Because of the lacking of road connectivity completely, this is why most of our resources can go to the neighboring country,” adds Mohammed Kamara, the central clan chief for Guma Mande. “You cannot expect people who live here with resources and they are not well connected to their own country.”

The road from Vahun to Kolahun is one of the worst in the country. Untrimmed bushes make it difficult to see the ground. Erosion caused by yearly rainfalls, rocks and steep hills feature almost permanently. At one point, it takes a deep left turn at the head of a cliff so deep that even the green and yellow coloring of a cocoa garden on its side could not cover the lurking danger.

Kromah narrated how he and other chainsaw millers attempted to transport some 800 planks to Voinjama in a truck in 2017 but lost all the woods. He said they had to pay for the repair of the vehicle and needed a full year to recover from the loss.

“If you go on the road, you will see some of the woods,” he said with a dry smile. “We lost more than L$1 million.”

The LRA did not reply to queries emailed them nearly two weeks ago up to writing time.

The FDA said it did not have a local office in Vahun, and that Miller had denied authorizing Konneh to collect fees in the name of the agency. Konneh also denied he collects tolls, despite admitting to doing so in our interview.

“We do not take this at face value and are investigating along with the authorities,” said Yanquoi Dolo, the head of the FDA legal team in an emailed statement.

Planks by the roadside toward Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone in Vahun, Lofa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Edward Blamo contributed to this report.

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

US Frees Russian Who Traded Arms in Liberia for ‘Logs of War’

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Top: Viktor Bout being led by US security officers. Reuters/Sukree Sukplang


By James Harding Giahyue

MONROVIA – The United States has released Viktor Bout, the notorious arms dealer who sold weapons to warring factions in Liberia’s civil wars in exchange for the country’s timber. His release was part of a long-proposed prisoner swap deal between Washington and Moscow that saw the latter freed Brittney Griner, the American basketball player who was serving a nine-year sentence by a court in Moscow for possessing and smuggling drugs.

“I’m glad to say Brittney’s in good spirits… she needs time and space to recover,” President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday following.

Russian state media showed footage of Bout and Griner passing each other at the airport alongside their respective teams crossing on the tarmac with their respective teams. Bout greets Russian officials while Griner looks on. 

“The Russian citizen has been returned to his homeland,” the Russian foreign ministry statement said.

Between 1989 and 2003, Bout sold weapons to Liberian warring factions—most notably former President Charles Taylor—busting several United Nations arms embargoes.  Within that time, Taylor’s forces and rivals illegally exploited the country’s timber and mineral industries to buy Bout’s weapons. Some 250,000 people were killed in the conflict, destroying Liberia’s forest. As the result, the country became synonymous with “logs of war” and “conflict timber.”

Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended in 2009 that Bout be investigated for his role in the country’s crises but this is yet to happen more than a decade on. And his release has made that possibility even slimmer.

“Even though he spent time in jail, through the effort of the US justice system, we do not think he deserves to be a free man,” said Hassan Bility, the executive director of Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), an NGO that has helped to prosecute Liberian war criminals Alieu Kosiah and Kunti Kamara, and United States immigration fraudsters Mohammed Jabbateh and the late Thomas Woewiyu whose crimes were linked to the country’s civil wars.

“Bout’s business deals and his thirst for profits led to the murder of tens of thousands of Liberians. And what do the victims get in return?” Bility said.

Critics of the Bout-for-Griner swap were unfair as the Russian’s crimes were way graver than the American’s offense. While Bout was convicted of wire fraud, money laundering and the illegal purchase of an aircraft, Griner was held for being in possession of a cannabis-laced ointment.

Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, said in the Guardian, “Trading Viktor Bout, a dangerous convicted arms dealer who was in prison for conspiring to kill Americans, will only embolden Vladimir Putin to continue his evil practice of taking innocent Americans hostage for use as political pawns.”

Stephen Rapp, former chief prosecutor for the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, said there was still something to celebrate.

“I am pleased that Britney Griner has now been freed.  I would have preferred that this could have happened without the release of the notorious arms dealer Victor Bout,” Rapp told The DayLight. “I take some solace in the fact that Bout was in jail for almost 15 years since his arrest in Thailand in March 2008.  I am sure that many were saved from death and injury from the use of the arms that he would have traded to violent groups around the world.

‘The Merchant of Death’

Bout was active in Afghanistan, Colombia, Angola, the former Yugoslavia, Yemen, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But it was his deals with Taylor that capped the former Soviet soldier’s career as the world’s most notorious arms trafficker.

While Bout busted arms embargos to supply Taylor with arms and ammunition in Liberia, Taylor illegally exploited the country’s logs and minerals and abused its huge shipping registry—the second-largest in the world—to pay Bout. The two men met personally, according to eyewitnesses cited by American journalists

Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun in their 2007 book “Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes and the Man Who Makes War Possible.”

Earning other aliases: “Sanctions-buster,” “Lord of War” and “The McDonald’s of Armed Trafficking,” Bout broke a number of United Nations arms embargos on Liberia between 1992 and 2003. His fleet of ships and airplanes transported the weapons to Liberia, using different pseudonyms and shell companies, transiting through countries like Gambia, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger.  

In 2003, the Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), which had launched its rebellion against Taylor in 1999, attacked the capital. With American President George W. Bush stating he “must leave Liberia” and Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo offering him exile, Taylor resigned in August 2003.  And that marked the end of 14 years of civil unrest.

In 2004, Bout and Taylor were subjected to UN and U.S. sanctions, a travel ban and assets seizure, similar to the one placed on three officials of the current Liberian government. It took more than a decade for the asset freeze and travel ban to be lifted.

Bout moved on with his illegal arms deals after Taylor’s fall from power, surviving an International Criminal Police Organization or Interpol notice, and forgery charges in the Central African Republic. In July 2004, Bush issued an executive order, freezing the assets of Bout, Taylor, Taylor’s relatives and some members of the Liberian government. Taylor’s ex-wife and now Vice President of Liberia Jewel Howard Taylor, and opposition figure Benoni Urey were subject to the measure. The assets freeze followed a similar one by the UN Security Council earlier that year.

Bout ignored the sanctions. In 2008, he was arrested in an Interpol operation in Bangkok, Thailand.  Bout had offered to supply weapons to rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It turned out the rebels were actually officers of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Royal Thai Police.

Initially, American prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill US officers and employees and conspiracy to provide surface-to-air missiles and other weapons to a foreign terrorist organization. But while the U.S. Justice Department pressed for Bout’s extradition from Thailand to America, prosecutors happened upon a new development. Bout had been negotiating to buy a plane on U.S. soil, which violated the sanctions Washington imposed on him and Taylor. Additional charges were filed against him: illegal purchase of aircraft, wire fraud and money laundering. He was convicted by a New York court in 2012 and sentenced to 25 years in prison, 15 years of supervised parole and forfeiture of US$15 million. The court dismissed his initial charges, saying they only originated from the deceptive operation that led to his arrest.   

That, perhaps, closed the chapter on the career of the world’s most infamous arms trafficker, born Viktor Anatolyevich Bout on January 13, 1967, in the former Soviet Union now Tajikistan.  


Also, Read

Viktor Bout: How a Russian Arms Dealer Matters to Liberia

Rosemart: The Logging Company Secretly Operating in Nimba

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Top: Rose Yancy and community people lead foreigners into the Kpaytuo Plantation. Photo credit: Facebook/Rose Yancy


By Gerald C. Koinyeneh

KPAYTUO, Nimba County – A Liberian-owned company ships timber from a forest in Nimba County unknown to the rest of the public, except for the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Mike Doryen and the other top managers of the agency, who have sanctioned the firm’s illegal operations.

Rosemart Inc. was awarded the Kpaytuo Plantation in the Saclepea District at least six years ago, according to documents withheld secret ever since until a recent investigation by The DayLight prompted the FDA to publish them.  The company has illegally shipped US$100,000 worth of teak logs, expensive woods used for construction, shipbuilding and the making of rifles. At the time of Rosemart’s last known shipment in 2020, teaks were selling for US$300 per cubic meter. It has traded between US$1-2.5 million goods on the Trade Key alone, a Saudi Arabia-based e-commerce platform.

But there is no public record of Romsemart’s operations—its contracts with the FDA and the community where it operates—except for three illegal export permits. The company is not captured in the reports of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). It has only paid US$664.70 during all its years of operations, with some of its fees going straight to the FDA’s account at the United Bank for Africa (UBA), instead of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).  

Villagers adjacent to the Kpaytuo Plantation said Rosemart pays them US$15,000 for a certain quantity of logs. They said they have had three transactions, information backed by the permits published so far. The 500-acre Kpaytuo is one of several plantations across the country that were established by the government of Liberia prior to the Liberian civil wars as part of the government’s forest regeneration program.

“The agreement puts Rosemart in charge of the forest. The few pieces [of logs] that remained there, she is responsible for them. I heard that she has found partners and is waiting for the rain to stop coming,” said Adolphus Kpangar, the commissioner of Kpaytuo township. He declined to share a copy of the agreement. 

The FDA awarded Rosemart’s its contracts outside of forestry laws and regulations.   There are five legal logging permits: forest management contracts (FMC), timber sale contracts (TSC), forest use permits (FUP) or private use permits (PUP) and a community forest management agreement (CFMA). Rosemart contract does not fall under any of the five contracts, known in the sector as forest resource licenses.

Rosemart did not conduct an environmental social impact assessment (ESIA) as mandated by the National Forestry Reform Law. The assessment draws out the environmental and social consequences of a project and proposes measures to mitigate potential negative impacts. Clearing a forest without conducting an ESIA could hurt plants, animals and people, experts say. For instance, Kpaytuo Plantation has swamps, generally important ecosystems that are home to different species.

Also, Rosemart’s export permits were issued outside of the chain of custody or LiberTrace, the system that tracks all logs produced and shipped from Liberia. Its creation was a monumental achievement in Liberia’s drive to trade legal and sustainable logs. It is a crucial component of the country’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)  with the European Union signed in 2011. 

“I have no idea what [those permits are],” said Gertrude Nyaley, the technical manager for the department in an emailed interview with The DayLight. “What I know is that all woods and wood products must be exported [through] the LiberTrace system. Anything shipment of timber or timber products outside the chain-of-custody system is illegal.” Awarding permits outside the chain of custody amounts to economic sabotage under the law.  

Rose Yancy Adikwu, Rosemart’s co-owner and CEO, turned down an interview with The DayLight on her company’s illegal activities.

Rose Yancy Adikwu, Rosemart’s co-owner and CEO with townsmen and her foreign business partners. Facebook/Rose Yancy

The FDA did not initially respond to The DayLight’s inquiry. But in a rebuttal to our investigation that exposed the secret deal, it falsely claimed that Rosemart’s consignment did not meet certain requirements. It also claimed that Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), the Swiss firm that created LiberTrace, declined to enter the teak logs from plantations into the chain of custody.

Contrary to this claim, Rosemart made a number of shipments that are much larger than some of the ones captured by the LEITI.  For instance, Rosemart exported 88.625 cubic meters of logs outside the chain of custody in 2020. That same year, Regnals Internationals Inc.—which runs the Cavalla Reforestation Plantation—exported only 62 cubic meters of logs.  

SGS also debunked the FDA’s claim it declined to register the logs Rosemart exported into the system.  

“SGS has never been informed of any scientific management plantations to be applied in LiberTrace,” Theodore Aime Nna, SGS’ forestry project manager, told The DayLight. “Moreover, SGS does not certify any log in Liberia, but only verifies their history…”

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

Fact-check: FDA Exposes Itself In Defending Illegal Export Permits

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Top: The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has continued to issue illegal logging permits. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By The DayLight Fact-checking Desk

  • FDA cites violations of previous administrations, including an ex-head of the institution who is being prosecuted over forestry’s worst postwar scandal
  • Swiss quality company SGS says FDA lied over a so-called threshold on the registration of logs
  • Manager of Legality Verification distances herself from illegal permit FDA cites in excuse of its violation
  •  The argument that over 88 cubic meters of logs do not meet the threshold is wrong, as the agency legally exports smaller volumes of logs

WHEIN TOWN, Paynesville – The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) defended its decision to award export permits to companies outside the legal system that tracks timber trade—an offense that constitutes economic sabotage—recently reported in an investigation by The DayLight.

FDA Managing Director Mike Doryen and other top managers awarded firms export permits that are not registered in the chain of custody or LiberTrace. Other managers who issued the permits include Joseph Tally, the deputy managing director for operations; Edward Kamara, the manager for forest products marketing and revenue forecast; and Jerry Yonmah, the former technical manager for the agency’s commercial department.

Export from just one of the firms, Rosemart Inc., owned by Liberian businesswoman Rose Yancy Adikwu, has traded over US$100,000 worth of timber, according to the permits awarded to the company.  Rosemart has traded between US$1 million and US$2.5 million goods on Trade Key, according to the Saudi Arabia-based e-commerce platform. However, it only paid the Liberian government US$664.70, according to its tax-payment history as of the time of writing.

The FDA has kept these permits secret: they have not been published on its website, in periodic reports, or captured by the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI).

The uncovering of the illegal permits comes at a time logs are being smuggled out of the country at an alarming rate. The permits evoke harsh memories of the Liberian civil wars when logging contracts were illegally awarded to companies in exchange for weapons. They recall the infamous Private Use Permit Scandal of 2012, where 2.5 million hectares of forests were illegally awarded.

The FDA’s defense of the illegal permits contains a number of unlawful and flawed arguments. “FDA’s Rejoinder to The DayLight Publication on Illegal Timber Export Permit Issuance” was published as a news story and an advertisement. Here are what we found after fact-checking major claims:

Claim One – The DayLight published a story on EJ&J

The FDA claims that The DayLight published a story in FrontPage Africa that alleges EJ&J Logging Company and Brilliant Maju exported US$3 million worth of timber. It had told villagers it had not shipped a single log so it could not pay its debt to them, according to the article.  

“The amplification of this story was channeled through several newspapers, including FrontPage Africa,” the FDA wrote. “We wish to inform the public and educate the publisher of their lack of understanding of the scope and nature of forest management…” It was used to exemplify that The DayLight’s reports were that of “paid journalism… employed by our detractors to paint us ugly in the eye of the public,” and that our style of reporting is  “counterproductive to the norms of journalism.”

Facts

The article cited by the FDA was not written by The DayLight. Rather New Narratives, a media development program known for award-winning reports on Liberia’s extractive sector, transitional justice and female genital cutting (FGC).   

Claim Two – SGS declined to enroll logs into the chain of custody  

Varney Marshall, a ranger with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) poses for a picture at an illegal logging site he runs believed to be Gbarpolu County. This picture was obtained from a leaked gallery of photos exposed by The DayLIght in August.

The FDA claims that Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) declined to enroll teak logs from plantations as  they fell below “technical requirement” and “because of their salvage nature.” It made the claim without showing any proof.

Facts

SGS refutes the FDA’s claim that it rejected the logs for any reason. It was the Swiss firm that created LiberTrace, a major component of Liberia’s 2011 Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU). The trade agreement mandates both parties to ensure logs are legally and sustainably sourced.

“SGS has never been informed of any scientific management plantations to be applied in LiberTrace,” Theodore Aime Nna, SGS’ forestry project manager, told The DayLight via email over the weekend.

“Logs could be rejected through LiberTrace only if they are not traceable or illegally produced. Moreover, SGS does not certify any log in Liberia, but only verifies their history…,” Nna added.   

Claim Three – Ex-FDA Managing Director also issued illegal export permits

The FDA argues this administration is the first to issue illegal export permits. Past administrations did.

In its sponsored rebuttal in FrontPage Africa, the Doryen-led FDA published four more of the illegal permits. They had been awarded between 2016 and 2019, including one each to two other companies and two others to Rosemart.

“Past administration of the Forestry Development Authority had the option to either allow the logs to waste/rot … or take a decision that favors their utilization.”

Facts

The FDA’s reference to permits issued by past administrations as justification for the violation does not hold. Moses Wogbeh Sr., a former managing director who issued one of the permits FDA cited, was found guilty of economic sabotage, issuing deceptive writing and other crimes for his role in the Private Use Permit Scandal. Wogbeh’s appeal of Criminal Court C’s August 2015 ruling is still at the Supreme Court of Liberia.

Claim Four – The head of the legality Verification Department signed one of the Illegal Permits

Making further arguments to legitimize the illegal permits, the FDA tried to discredit comments made by Gertrude Nyaley, the technical manager of its legality verification department (LVD). Nyaley had told The DayLight that permits for wood and wood products issued outside of the chain-of-custody system are illegal. It was a huge assertion that helped lift the lid on illegal permits.

“It is important to note that that Atty. Gertrude Nyaley…, who was quoted by [The] DayLight as having no knowledge of the [permits’] legality, also signed one of the mentioned [permits] as acting managing Director.

Facts

Nyaley denies she signed the permit, though it has her name handwritten. “I did not sign any permit. They know where they got their permit from,” Nyaley said of the 2019 document.  “In 2019, I served as the Technical Manager of the community forest department and was in no way near commercial activities.

Nyaley did not sign as an acting managing director, instead, she proxied for Tally, the deputy managing director for operations.

“What an inherent contradiction,” Nyaley said.

Claim Five – Rosemart Inc. does not meet the revenue threshold

The FDA says companies such as Rosemart do not meet the “revenue threshold,” and the decision for the publication of their exports lies with the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI).    

Facts

This claim by the FDA is not grounded in facts.   There are a number of shipments made by Rosemart that are larger than some of the ones captured by the LEITI.  For instance, Rosemart exported 88.625 cubic meters of logs outside the chain of custody in 2020. That same year, Regnals Internationals Inc.—which runs the Cavalla Reforestation Plantation—exported only 62 cubic meters of logs, according to the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). In fact, that was the same volume of logs it exported the previous fiscal period. That is a difference of more than 26 cubic meters.

Swiss Firm Says FDA Lied in Defending Illegal Permits

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Top: The Forestry Development Authority issues illegal export permits, including some from a shadowy contract in Nimba County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Emmanuel Sherman

WHEIN TOWN, Paynesville – The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) lied that its Swiss contractor had declined to register logs from a plantation in Nimba County, which led it to award illegal permits, the quality company has said.

Responding to The Daylight’s investigation on the permits, the FDA had claimed that Société Générale de Surveillance “declined to certify teak logs within LiberTrace.” Without showing any evidence, it said  the woods did not meet “technical requirements.” LiberTrace or the chain of custody is the system SGS created to track logs from the forests to the end users.  

But the SGS vehemently dismissed the assertions.

“SGS has never been informed of any scientific management plantations to be applied in LiberTrace,” Theodore Aime Nna, SGS’ forestry project manager, told The DayLight via email over the weekend.

“Logs could be rejected through LiberTrace only if they are not traceable or illegally produced. Moreover, SGS does not certify any log in Liberia, but only verifies their history…,” Nna added.   

The illegal permits mentioned in the report were granted to a Liberian-owned company called Rosemart Inc., and an Ivorian-owned Polgal Enterprise Inc. Rosemart secretly operates the Kpaytuo Plantation in the Tappita region. Polgal’s permit was tracked down in Cote d’Ivoire earlier this year by forestry officials there, according to a communication seen by The DayLight.  Nearly all of the export fees the companies paid did not go to Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA), a review of their tax histories shows.

FDA published more of the permits in its justification of the violations, despite earlier denying this newspaper‘s request for them. The documents now show Rosemart has sold more than 2,000 teak logs between 2016 and 2020, valued at more than US$100,000, according to our analysis of the permits published so far.  That is a far cry from the US$ 1-2.5 million Rosemart alone has traded, according to Trade Key, a Saudi Arabia-based online platform it trades on. Teak logs are expensive, long-lasting woods use in making bridges, ships and firearms.

SGS’ rebuttal aside, FDA’s excuse for awarding Rosemart the permit outside the legal system does not hold. Rosemart illegally exported 88.625 cubic meters of logs in 2020. That same year, Regnals International—which runs another plantation—exported only 62 cubic meters of logs, according to the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). That is a difference of more than 26 cubic meters. Also, the FDA wrote on the permit that the logs were abandoned was another lie, as there is no record that the agency sought a court order to auction the woods as required by the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products.

SGS created LiberTrace as a part of the reform of the forestry sector. The system is a crucial component of Liberia’s trade agreement with the European Union (EU) called the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). It has turned over the system to FDA’s legality verification department (LVD) after it was established but still plays a role there.  

SGS is one of the world’s best quality companies. It has been listed a number of times as one of the  2,000 largest companies in the world by Forbes, an American business magazine that tracks such records. It has about 2,600 offices and laboratories worldwide as of July last year. It scored the highest mark between 2014 and 2019 on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, a key global ranking for the quality industry. 

Lebanese Company Has No Right to Log In Grand Bassa

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Top: A Masayaha container at its log yard in Bokay Town, Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By James Harding Giahyue

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part of a series on a string of illegal activities by Masayaha Logging Company, which operates in Grand Bassa County.


SAUL TOWN, Grand Bassa County – Within the last three years, Lebanese logging firm Masayaha Limited Liability Corporation has harvested logs outside the Worr Community Forest in Compound Number One. An investigation by The DayLight uncovered the company has not been punished for those illegal activities and its abandonment of some 600 logs.

But the fact that the Masayaha does not have any legal rights to cut down a single tree in the Worr Community Forest remained unnoticed or unreported—until now.  

Interviews with members of the leadership of the community show they are unaware of how Masayaha ended up in their forest. Magna Logging Corporation Inc., a company owned by Liberian businessman Morley Kamara, had signed an agreement with locals in August 2019 but gave way for Masayaha that same year in a secret deal.

“Masayaha and Magna agreement, we are not part of it. We don’t know how they went through their agreement,” said Alvin Fiske, the head of the Worr Community Forest’s leadership. “We expected every agreement we made with Magna be turned over.” 

Fiske’s comments were corroborated by Garsayweh Harris, who advises Worr’s leadership.

The transfer from Magna to Masayaha was illegal and remains so. The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) must approve a transfer of license from one company to another, according to the National Forestry Reform Law, and the community ought to give its consent to such a deal under the Community Rights Law of 2009 with Respect to Forest Lands (CRL).

“Any decision, agreement or activity affecting the status or use of community forest resources shall not proceed without the prior, free and informed consent of the said community,” the CRL says in section 2.2, one of its guiding principles. The law is a crucial part of postwar forestry reform, which empowers communities to co-manage their forests alongside the FDA.

In September, Magna’s CEO Morley Kamara admitted that Masayaha was the actual operator of Worr. “Magna is not the operator of Worr concession,” Kamara said in an emailed response to queries on Masayaha’s illegal logging activities. “Please direct your questions to the right party.”

Kamara declined to comment on the illegal transfer when contacted earlier this month. “I do not report to newspapers, including yours but to FDA and the community. Do not contact me for future articles as well.”

Masayaha has abandoned nearly 600 logs it harvested between 2020 and 2021, an analysis of the company’s production and export records show. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Masayaha’s owner and CEO Ali Harkous did not reply to the WhatsApp messages we sent to him.


Read more on Masayaha:


It was unclear whether the FDA approved Magna’s transfer of logging rights in Worr to Masayaha, as such a document should be signed by the community. However,  FDA is aware of Masayaha’s operations in the 35,337-hectare woodlands. The agency has sanctioned the Lebanese company’s production and export. And some official reports capture it, including the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI).

Illegal transfer of a forest resource license or part of it is a possible ground for termination of that license, according to the National Forestry Reform Law.

FDA’s Managing Director Mike Doryen and other top managers of the agency did not answer questions The DayLight posed to them via email. Doryen and co also did not grant our request for documents related to the two companies, public documents under forestry laws, regulations and Liberia’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union.

Magna’s illegal transfer to Masayaha the same year it signed the agreement with locals brings into question the company’s capacity to operate the contract area. In normal forestry practices, the FDA must make sure a  company seeking a logging contract has the financial and logistical ability.

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

FDA Managers Issue Illegal Timber Export Permits

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Top: The headquarters of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in Whein Town, Paynesville. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By James Harding Giahyue

WHEIN TOWN, Paynesville – The Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Mike Doryen and top managers of the agency award export permits to logging companies outside of the legal channel for the exportation of timber, documents obtained by The DayLight have revealed.

By the National Forestry Reform Law, all export permits and certificates of origin must be “accurately enrolled” in a log-tracking or chain-of-custody system known as LiberTrace. Under the law, granting access to forest resources that breaks any provision of the law constitutes economic sabotage.  

But Doryen and other top managers awarded Rosemart Inc., a Liberian-owned company, and Porgal Enterprise Inc., an Ivorian-owned firm, a certificate of origin and export permits that are not registered in the official log-tracking system.

Rosemart used the illegal permit and sold 520 teak logs, expensive, durable woods used for construction, shipbuilding and the making of AK-47 rifles. Rosemart was selling the logs for US$26,588, according to the illegal document.

Porgal’s illegal papers were tracked down in Cote d’Ivoire.

The other managers who signed the illegal permits are Joseph Tally, Doryen’s deputy for operations; Edward Kamara, the manager for forest products marketing and revenue forecast; and Jerry Yonmah, the former technical manager for the agency’s commercial department.

FDA’s legality verification department confirmed it did not issue the documents, which, of course, do not match the ones generated by the chain of custody system. Permits issued by the system carry barcodes and other markings absent on the ones awarded to Rosemart and Porgal, and are free of human errors. That standard is a crucial part of Liberia’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union (EU) for the trade of legal and sustainable timber.

“I have no idea what [those permits are],” said Gertrude Nyaley, the technical manager for the department. “What I know is that all woods and wood products must be exported [through] the LiberTrace system. Anything shipment of timber or timber products outside the chain-of-custody system is illegal.”

Receipts of the transactions and review of official payment records of both companies show Rosemart and Porgal did not pay the fees for the permits to the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), as mandated by law.

The permits undermine the forestry objectives of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development to increase the sector’s contribution to the Liberian economy. It aims to increase forestry revenue from nine  to 12 percent by next year. However, logging contributed US$9.2 million to revenues in the 2020-2021 fiscal year—when the illegal permits were awarded—the LEITI reported. That was only a tenth of the country’s revenue from extractive industries for that period.   

Mike Doryen has issued export permits for companies to ship logs outside of the legal system. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

Porgal denied any wrongdoing, and Rosemart refused to comment on the matter.

Doryen, Kamara and Yonmah did not respond to our emailed questions posed to them.

Talley claimed he and the other officials acted in line with forestry legal frameworks.

Errors and Inconsistencies

Rosemart’s permits were issued in quick succession.  It paid the so-called export fees on December 23, 2020.  That same day Doryen acknowledged the payment of US$1,430  for “abandoned” teak logs with a total volume of 88.625 cubic meters from a forest in Kpatuo, Nimba County. The company then received a certificate of origin, which tells a prospective buyer where the logs come from. Then later that day, it was awarded the export permit.

“This export permit is valid upon attestation by the Managing Director/FDA or his designate and is for a single shipment,” Doryen’s letter read.

“You are further requested to work closely with the relevant government agencies, including FDA forest law enforcement, Liberia Revenue Authority/Customs & Excise, [National Port Authority] and [Ministry of Finance and Development Planning] agents who will monitor and supervise the process,” it added.  

Chain-of-custody legality aside, Doryen’s awarding of Rosemart a permit to export the supposed abandoned logs was also unlawful. Unattended logs can be exported only if the FDA publicly declares them abandoned and seeks a court order for an auction. There has been no such petition at the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquillie or anywhere since the Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products was created in 2017. Up to press time, local radio stations had no records of notices of abandoned logs and auctions as mandated by the regulation.

Doryen’s claim in the certificate of origin that the woods were “sourced from several community suppliers, especially farmers around the country and as such there is no specific origin of production/collection” is not factual. Pictures we obtained from a source familiar with the illegal harvesting show some of the teak logs and their stumps in Kpaytuo Plantation deep in the Saclepea region. A stump is the portion of the tree that remains in the ground after harvesting.

There were also a number of inconsistencies in Rosemart’s documents.

Doryen’s letter to the company and the certificate of origin listed Turkey as the destination of the logs but that changed to India on the export permit, despite all documents being written on the same day. Indusina Exim LLP, the Indian firm named on the export permit, did not return queries for comments on the deal.   

It appeared the permit, certificate and letter were copied and pasted from old ones, with the authorities retaining previous validity periods in new ones. The actual export permit was issued on December 23, 2020, but reversely valid up to February 21, 2020. Doryen’s letter to Rosemart—meant to reinforce the permit—was backwardly valid from January 30 to March 15, 2019. The validity period of the letter was 45 days and the permit 60.

The documents misspelled Jerry Yonmah’s Surname as “Yormah” yet he signed them. Yonmah alongside other staff was suspended earlier this year over his alleged role in granting some logging companies trees above their annual harvesting limits.  He was subsequently replaced as technical manager of the commercial department.

It was unclear where the money Rosemart paid the FDA went. The so-called permit fees went to the FDA’s account at the United Bank for Africa, according to Doryen’s letter. Rosemart paid another US$1,335  for export and another wood-related fee. But its tax history only reflects a US$664.70 payment for forest products, which was made on February 20 last year. It was also blurry whether the company paid land rental and other fees as mandated by law. 

There were indications Rosemart had traded illegally sourced logs more than once. The firm is not named in any of the reports of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). It was established in 2014, and villagers adjacent to the Kpatuo plantation said it had operated the forest before 2020. The Commissioner of Kpaytuo Township Adolphus Kpangar, said Rosemart has an agreement with locals wherein it pays US$15,000 for a certain quantity of logs, adding they had had three transactions. Rosemart has transacted between US$1 million and US$2.5 million annual sales volume on the Trade Key alone,  according to the Saudi Arabia-based e-commerce platform. The company also deals in general merchandise, though.

The FDA did not grant our request for Rosemart’s logging contract, a violation of our right of access to such public information, guaranteed under the National Forest Reform Law and the Freedom of Information Act.  

Rose Yancy Adikwu, Rosemart’s co-owner and CEO, turned down an interview with The DayLight. Adikwu had promised to grant us the interview but backed off as soon as we shared copies of the permits. Further efforts to persuade her proved futile.

Porgal’s Permit in Cote d’Ivoire

On January 11 this year,  Doryen and Kamara awarded Porgal Enterprise Inc. a one-year permit to purchase and export timber and timber products. This time around, only Doryen and Kamara signed the permit.

“This is to confirm that Porgal enterprise Inc. has met the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) annual timber buying and exporting registration requirements as a non-contract holder…,” the permit read.  


The illegal permit was awarded to an Ivorian wood company, Porgal Enterprise Inc.

Porgal paid US$1,000 for the permit but, like Rosemart,  the disbursement was not made to the LRA. Rather, it was paid to the FDA’s account at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), a receipt of the payment shows. The company’s taxpayment history also corroborates this. It only reflects disbursements for business registration, resident permit and other fees, not the export permit.  

Earlier this year, Ivoirian authorities reached out to the FDA to inquire about Porgal’s permit and other documents relating to timber presumed destined for Burkina Faso or Mali, according to a communication between forestry personnel of the two countries, seen by The DayLight.    

Amadou Barry, the Ivorian national who owns Porgal denied any wrongdoing, blaming apparent imposters. “I don’t know anything about fraud,” Barry said in a WhatsApp chat. He said he had been quizzed by FDA rangers on this issue.

“We did not buy wood from Liberia, so we are not related to this case,” added Hamado Ouedraogo, a representative of Wend-Noura International, Porgal’s Ivorian partner. Both companies had signed a contract to export timber from Liberia barely a week before the FDA awarded Porgal the illegal permit, the contract seen by The DayLight shows.

Tally, FDA’s deputy managing director for operations, falsely claimed that the permits did not have to be awarded through the chain of custody system.

“Within the next few weeks, all necessary information to have the public adequately knowledgeable on the issuance of [the] export permit will be published,” Tally said in an emailed reply to The DayLight. “We will inform the general public on a regular or periodic basis… for better understanding as relating to your concerns.”


Gerald Koinyeneh contributed to this report.

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

The Media May Have Lost Thousands Over Abandoned Logs

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Top: Burned and decayed logs that were abandoned by African Wood and Lumber Company in Compound Number Two, Grand Bassa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Mark Newa

MONROVIA – The Liberian media may have lost up to an estimated US$63,250 over the failure of the Forestry Development Agency (FDA) to auction logs, timber and timber products abandoned by concession companies, according to an investigation by The DayLight.

Nearly every logging company in the country has abandoned logs—Masayaha, International Consultant Capital and Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited, just to name a few. They can be found in large and small-scale concessions, plantations and community forests across the country.  Some are being used for firewood, charcoal, planks and defecation. Others have even been used as an insurance bonds in a lawsuit.

“Logging companies have left [a] huge quantity of assorted round logs unattended or abandoned at various bush landings and log yards over the years…,” an August 2020 FDA report, covering River Cess, Grand Bassa and Nimba, said. A bush landing is where logs are piled after felling, while they are stored in log yards to be transported for export.

“Valuable time species are continuously being harvested by logging companies without first securing sales contracts, only to leave those logs unattended,” the FDA investigators said at the time.

The Regulation on Abandoned Logs, Timber and Timber Products prescribes penalties for the offense, ranging from fines to forfeiture of forest licenses. But the FDA has not punished any companies or individuals amid plenty of evidence.

Under the regulation, logs are considered abandoned when they are unattended between 15 and 180 working days, depending on their location. It was created in 2017 to replace a previous one, which narrowed the definition of abandonment to logs outside contract areas and without tracking numbers.  It was the country’s response to the demands of the global timber market for legal and sustainable logs.

The current regulation mandates the FDA to make a number of radio announcements and publications in newspapers—from a notice of abandonment to a public auction and to the declaration of the winner of the auction. So far, not a single one has been done in the five years of the regulation.

To arrive at the estimated total loss, The DayLight used US$100 for the average cost of a quarter-page newspaper publication and US$5 for a radio announcement, based on our analysis of advertisement rates. We multiplied those costs by the 22  newspaper publications and 66 radio announcements required by the regulation. And then we added the two products. That gave us US$2,530 the income for the media on a single auctioning process.  Then we multiplied that by 25 incidents of abandoned logs, judging from the cases we have flagged, those reported by the FDA itself and others, to get the US$63,250.  

But there is a possibility that some of these cases would not have made it to public auctioning, as some of the logs had decayed and some could have been redeemed and there could have been no bidder. In the case of redemption, the media would have generated just US$2,500 from all 25 processes. And if no company bided for the woods in all the cases, the media would have generated US$45,750.

The amount could help cash-strapped media institutions meet challenges that have undermined the fourth estate’s role as watchdogs, and promote things like free speech and giving voice to victims of human rights abuses.  

How the media benefits

Some of the logs Sing Africa Plantation Liberia Limited abandoned at its sawmill in Zorzor, Lofa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

When the FDA is notified of suspicion of abandoned logs, the regulation requires it to investigate for seven working days and inform the company or the community leadership of the forest. Logs left in the forest are considered abandoned after 15 working days, and 180 for the ones in log yards.  

If a company or community claims the logs, then the FDA must publish administrative fees it incurred during its investigation—including transportation, storage, and the cost of the publication, for example.

But if no one claims the logs, the agency is required to publish a notification of abandonment in a newspaper for five days and announce the same on local and national radio stations for 14 days.   

Once it finds out that the logs are abandoned, it must announce its findings on national and local radio stations for another 14 days.

If a claimant does not come forward or prove they own the logs, the FDA must publish a notice of abandonment in a newspaper for five days.

Thereafter, the FDA is mandated to seek a court order to auction the logs. When that petition is granted, it is required to publish an auction notice in a newspaper at least once for five days. It must run that same announcement for the same period on national and local radio stations.

The last round of mandatory publication is the announcement of the result of the auction for seven days in a newspaper.

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