The Committee investigating the alleged missing 16 billion Liberian bank notes has snubbed authorities at the Central Bank of Liberia, saying they do not have the power to declare the final outcome of the ongoing probe, thereby announcing that more names of persons of interest will be placed on the travel ban next week.
CBL officials announced Tuesday October 2 that it receives all of the money printed outside of the country amounting to 15.5 billion, and that the money is in its vaults, declaring that there is no missing fund.
The Chairman of the Special Presidential Investigative Team or PIT probing the alleged disappearance of 15.5 or 16 billion Liberian banknotes says the CBL’s statement is belated and doesn’t stop the investigation from proceeding, stressing that more names will be added to the list of persons of interest..
Addressing a weekly press briefing here on Thursday, 4 October in the Charles Gbeyon Press Hall at the Ministry of Information, the Commissioner for Enforcement from the Liberia Anti- Corruption Commission or LACC, Mr. Charles J.L. Gibson says prior to the start of the investigation, the team submitted a list of individuals to the Ministry of Justice, restricting them from leaving the country in connection with the current probe.
Commissioner Gibson explains: “We sent a list to the Justice Ministry, requesting employees of the CBL to be banned from travelling, and we are going to be the same people to send list, requesting those names to be lifted.”
His assertion was in response to a reporter’s question whether the investigation would honor recent call from the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia to the Government to vacate its writ and remove the travel restriction placed on CBL staff “so as not to interrupt the smooth operations of the CBL.”
He says as of next Monday, the PIT will send additional list of people “who we believe are not essential that were on the previous list, and we also have a long list that we will also be sending to the Justice Ministry to be added.”
Commissioner Gibson describes the 16 billion Liberian banknotes that allegedly went missing as a national crisis that requires cooperation of all citizens, adding that the PIT comprises various agencies of government, including the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the Financial Intelligence Unit, the National Security Agency, and the Liberia National Police.
He details the team started investigation on 01 October, saying the PIT instituted a technical committee that is committed to the outcome of the investigation.An initial press statement issued by the Ministry of Justice on September 17, 2018, confirmed that on August 8, 2018, a Special Presidential Investigative Team, comprising investigators from the LNP, the NSA, and the FIU, was constituted and mandated to investigate information surrounding the arrival of containers and bags of moneys into the country, by and thru the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport.
Commissioner Gibson says the ongoing exercise is a financial crime investigation that also borders on money laundering, if the allegation were true.“We ask the public to remain calm though we have all the expertise but it takes time, because this whole allegation has become a national crisis; we all love this country and don’t want to see it in crisis.”
He says the PIT would get to the bottom of the matter case to unravel the truth, and all it seeks from the public is trust, confidence, and cooperation.Asked of his reaction to the recent statement from the Central Bank, he says the Team interposes no objection to the defense coming from the CBL that no money is missing, noting “I think it was a good statement.”
But he says the CBL’s statement is belated and doesn’t stop the investigation from proceeding.The Coordinator of the Presidential Investigative Team, and Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Intelligence Unit or (FIU) Alex Cuffy recalls that in August 2018 the Government received reports from a whistleblower about suspicious activities concerning importation of currency Liberian dollars banknotes.
According to him, in the same August, Government requested the LNP and the NSA to look into the suspicious activities concerning the banknotes that were imported.Mr. Cuffy continues that based on initial findings from the LNP, and the NSA, the Government of Liberia established a presidential investigation team to investigate circumstances surrounding not just the whistleblower’s claim, but from the printing and importation of currency banknotes, with a specific timeframe from January 2017-August 2018, which implies that activities were ongoing.
Meanwhile, the PIT warns government officials not to make inflammatory comments that could undermine the ongoing investigation.
“We asked the government to give us not less than six weeks as a timeframe to unveil our findings” says the FIU boss.He says as part of the investigation, the Team will review the authorization of printing of money and other currencies as well as look into accountability of Liberian dollars banknotes, foreign currency, foreign exchange, and auction and the infusion into the economy of the US$25 million dollars recently.
“In terms of period of completion, we have told the GOL to give us not less than six weeks, at the same time we want to use this medium, that while it s true government has extended invitation to foreign partners to assist in this investigation.
However, it maintains the LACC, FIU including the LNP and NSA all combined has the capacity and integrity to conduct and conclude this investigation “because we consider this as a patriotic call to duty, and we will deliver on our mandate provided, when we receive maximum cooperation from the government and the public.”
BY Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne