Logging Company Dragged Into PUP US$6M Fraud Trial

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The ongoing US$6M Private Use Permit (PUP) case involving four former senior managers of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and a senior surveyor of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy has taken a dramatic turn, after a logging company, Universal Forest Corporation, was accused of paying a bribe to get the permit.

The company is expected to appear before Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court ‘C’ today to provide the original copy of the receipt allegedly obtained from one of the defendants, John Kantor, former FDA technical manager for commercial service.

Kantor, along with other senior management officials  of the FDA, including the  dismissed Managing Director Moses Wogbeh, are on trial for their individual roles in facilitating the wrongful and illegal issuance of sixty-one PUPs that authorized commercial logging operation on the 2.5 million hectares of farm land, in which Universal is implicated for bribery.

The decision to cite Universal Forest Corporation came immediately following the testimony by a state witness, James Dorbor Jallah, who chaired the Presidential Special Independent Investigation Body (SIIB).  His testimony linked the logging company for having paid a bribe for the performance of services they were required to do under the PUP.

In his testimony, Jallah further alleged, “John Kantor was one of those members of the senior management team of the FDA on whom we found evidence indicating that he (Kantor) had received money from logging companies as was provided in the report.”

He further testified, “I do not remember all of the names but their names are listed in the report that was marked in evidence yesterday.”

When Jallah was asked by prosecution during his testimony to identify a photocopy of the alleged receipt issued by defendant Kantor to the logging company, he replied, “ I recognized this instrument (receipt) to be the one submitted to us during the investigation by the Universal Forest Corporation, based upon our request for all individuals, companies, communities and organizations to submit any and all documents that were in their possession relating to the issuance and operation of the PUP.”

Again asked where was the original?  The state witness said, “The copy that was received by our committee were photocopies of the originals. The company did not submit the original copy of that document.”

 It was following that testimony that the state lawyers asked Judge Gbeneweleh to mandate the logging company to produce the original copy of the receipt they received from defendant Kantor.

In their request to the court, prosecution said, “At this stage counsel for the prosecution requests your Honor for the issuance of an order (subpoena) on the management of Universal Forest Corporation to produce the original copy of the instrument (receipt) same being a cash receipt issued the said company by Mr. John Kantor dated October 20, 2011 on the stationary of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).”

Accepting prosecution’s request, Judge Gbeneweleh declared that “Submission is hereby granted. The clerk of this court is hereby ordered to issue the Subpoena and place same in the hand of sheriff commanding the Subpoena entity to produce the original copy of the instrument (receipt) herein named before this Honorable court on Thursday, April 9, 2014, at 9  a.m.  It is hereby so ordered.”

 The crimes for which the four former senior managers of the FDA and a senior surveyor of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy are being tried include economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, forgery or counterfeiting, obtaining and issuing deceptive writings and obstruction of government functions by public servants.

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