A testimony of Moses D. Wogbeh, the dismissed managing director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has provided new details of how the 61 Private Use Permits (PUPs) were allegedly approved by the board chair of the FDA and Agriculture Minister, Florence Chenoweth without naming her in the indictment.
Specifically, the dismissed FDA boss told the court that “All of the 61 PUPs were approved by the chairperson of the FDA and sometimes by Dr. Chenoweth’s proxy.”
Wogbeh together with three other FDA managers and a senior surveyor of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy are being tried for their alleged roles in facilitating the wrongful and illegal issuance of up to 61 PUPs that authorized commercial loggings operations on nearly 2.5 million hectares of land area of Liberia
They were accused of criminal conspiracy, forgery or counterfeiting obtaining and deceptive writings obstruction of Government by public servant in connection with the much-publicized PUP saga.
The accused have denied the charges, but James Dorbor Jallah, who headed the Presidential Special Independent Investigation (SIIB) that charged the defendants, testified that the accused committed the act.
Surprisingly, the Jallah committee report only recommended the suspension of Minister Chenoweth for a period of one month.
Wogbeh’s alleged confession came when he was asked during cross examination whether he approved any of the PUPs while he was in the employ of the FDA.
Shedding light on how he was investigated by the SIIB, witness Wogbeh described his investigation as an “ambush.”
“Not being a lawyer, they did not tell us that the investigation they were conducting was going to be used in a criminal court against us. So, we did not go with our lawyers to advise us on the legal proceedings when we appeared before the SIIB.”
According to him, when they appeared before the SIIB committee they were informed that the investigation was administrative “just to help them to compile their report, because for me in particular, I received a letter of invitation less than 30 minutes and I appeared before the committee,” Wogbeh further alleged.
He continued, “They also did not tell us that the recording was going to be used for criminal prosecution.”
Asked to explain about the PUPs during his administration, the defense witness claimed that eight of the 61 PUPs were harvested in Timbo, District# 3 in Grand Bassa County.
“We generated revenue of about US$5 million from the issuance of the PUPs before we left the FDA. When we left, the Authority was still shipping the PUP logs that were harvested and additional revenue was also generated.”