BY ED DAVEY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The lush West African rainforests of Liberia are being cut down and illegally exported with the likely collusion of powerful government officials, according to a diplomatic document obtained by The Associated Press that described an apparent “parallel system” for trade in timber.
The document is a compilation of reports prepared by independent international monitors over the last three years, made public here for the first time. It includes a table of 39 cases where monitors said they found evidence of lawbreaking or governance failure and no action taken to address any of them. It says the country’s chief timber official, Mike Doryen, runs his own “special task force” to bypass the personnel stationed at checkpoints who are there to prevent logging virgin rainforest.
The U.K. Foreign Office document describes a network of illicit sawmills, off-the-books exports and payments made to the Liberian forestry agency that were not deposited in official accounts, that could amount to a “parallel system” for the timber trade. “Such a system suggests the collusion of individuals at the (forestry agency), the National Port Authority, and Customs,”
U.K. diplomats wrote. Their document was sent to Liberian ministers last September and was passed to the office of the country’s president, correspondence with his deputy press secretary shows.
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