A dismissed managing director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) being tried for allegedly misapplying US$6 million from the Private Use Permit (PUP) funds told Criminal Court ‘C’ that Deputy House Speaker, Hans Barchue, received over US$50,000 from the permits.
Witness Moses Wogbeh in his testimony claimed that the money was part of what his administration collected from companies that were operating under the permits across the country.
“The Speaker received the money as a cash contribution for the people of Compound #1 in Grand Bassa County,” the defense witness further alleged, adding, “the US$50,000 was received from Forest Venture one of several logging companies operating under the PUPs in the county.”
Wogbeh together with three other managers of the FDA and a senior surveyor of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) were accused of issuing 61 PUPs that authorized commercial logging on nearly 2.5 million hectares of farmland in the country.
They are facing charges including criminal conspiracy, forgery or counterfeiting and deceptive obstruction of government by public servants.
Besides Speaker Barchue’s US$50,000, the defense witness claimed that government also received an undisclosed financial benefit from the PUPs that were issued.
He went on to say that the financial benefit was through export tax, and administrative and block inspection fees, while the communities also received cash benefits including repair of roads, bridges and the construction of clinics.”
He made the revelation when he was asked to explain whether government or a community under whose approval he issued the PUPs received financial or material benefits.
Further in his testimony, the defense witness admitted issuing the permits but failed to say how much of the 61 permits his administration issued to companies to carry out logging activities in the county.
“We relied on the 2006 National Forestry Law and its regulation to issue the permits to companies in the country,” he contended.
This is the second time that witness Wogbeh has accused senior government officials of being aware of the issuance of the controversial PUPs.
Recently, he implicated Agriculture Minister, Florence Chenoweth, who was then chairperson of the Board of Directors of the FDA, of approving the issuance of the PUPs, a claim to which the minister is yet to respond.