Logging Company Dumps Defendants in PUP US$6M Case

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Drama unfolded yesterday in the ongoing trial of four dismissed managers of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and a senior surveyor of the Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy (MLME), when a significant evidence surfaced suggesting that one of the defendants, John Kantor received US$51,538.20 rather than the US$4,500 from the Universal Forest Corporation (UFC).

The evidence was discovered after presiding Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh,  based on request from prosecution, ordered the management of Universal Forest Corporation to produce the original copies of cash receipts issued to the company by Mr. John Kantor dated October 20, 2011 on the stationary of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

Surprisingly, when the company’s management appeared at Criminal Court ‘C’ they produced several cash receipts totaling US$51,538.20, contrary to what prosecution had in its indictment.

  It was based on the  new evidence that state lawyers asked Judge Gbeneweleh, who is serving as both a judge and a jury, to allow it to form part of its documentary and oral evidences to convict the defendants.

  In its indictment, prosecution alleged that “between the periods of 2010 to December 2011, John Kantor, former technical manager for research of the FDA and while serving the FDA in the said capacity did receive in excess of US$4,500 as compensation or reward from the management of Universal Forest Corporation (UFC) representing final payment for boundary line demarcation of the Getro Private Use Permit (PUP) in Sinoe County.”

  Despite serious contention raised by the defense team, arguing that the new evidence should be dismissed on the grounds that the trial has lasted for three weeks and introducing any other evidence would not augur well for the trial.

  Judge Gbeneweleh went ahead to ignore the defense team’s argument and granted the state’s request, clarifying that the new evidence was not an additional charge against the defendants.

  The decision to cite UFC 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.

  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 operations on the 2.5 million hectares of farm land, in which Universal is implicated for bribery.

  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.

  The case continues.

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