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Excess LD$2bn printing unjustified

-State witness says in CBL case

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Prosecution’s first witness Baba Boakai says there is no further justification provided [by] former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks for printing excess LD$2,645,000,000, saying the accused used his authority to get a board resolution to legalize an action he already took.

“The investigation further found that from analyses of documents received, that the CBL and that of Crane Currency [were] also in violation of the very contract that they signed,” he testified Monday, 29 June at Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia.

The Liberia Anti – Corruption Commission (LACC’s) Program Manager in the Enforcement and Investigations Division accuses defendant Weeks of using his authority in dual capacity in assembling the Board of Governors in September 2017 to come up with a board resolution to legalize and perfect an action he took as far back as June 2017.

He testified further that no authorization was given by the Liberian Legislature for the printing of LD$10 billion, unlike the case of an initial LD$5 billion earlier printed following signing of a contract on 6 May 2016, shipped to Liberia, received by CBL “and duly accounted for.”

Former Governor Weeks and three other former CBL officials are standing trial for multiple charges including theft and economic sabotage of billions of Liberian dollars printed and shipped to Liberia, following a series of mass protests that prompted local and international investigation into claims that the money went missing.

The prosecution is holding to account four defendants in the case including Mr. Weeks who has been in all of the previous indictments for this case, and the new batch of inductees in persons of David Fahart, Elsie Dossen Bardio and KollieTamba.

The fifth defendant Melisa A. Emeh is said to be out of the bailiwick of Liberia and has not been brought to court, therefore the court has granted prosecution’s request to grant her a separate trial so as to enable the four other defendants that are available to get speedy trial.

All the defendants on trial have pleaded not guilty for charges of theft of property; economic sabotage; fraud on the internal revenue of Liberia; misuse of public money, property or record; theft or illegal disbursement of public money; criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation.

According to witness Boakai, the total Liberian Dollars printed, shipped and received by CBL authority for the purpose of LD$10 billion was LD$13,004,750,000. “Contrary to this, authority of the CBL informed the investigation that only 10,359,750,000.00 as the total amount that was printed and received by them,” he explains, adding that there was a variance of L$2,645,000,000 as the amount that is unaccounted for by defendant Weeks.

He testifies that the investigation also found from analyses of payment documents that instead of the contract cost of US$10,121,689.00, the CBL paid the total of US$10,555,587.00 for the printing of the S$10 billion plus Liberian Dollars.

According to him, this left a variance of US$433,898.00 as the amount that was paid in excess of the contract cost. Witness Boakai continues that the printing of the banknotes far exceeded the [plus or minus] as required in standard printing procedure, indicating that there is no further justification provided [by] co-defendant Weeks in particular for the [excess] printed of the bank notes.

This third indictment in the case did not include former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son Charles E. Sirleaf who served as Deputy CBL Governor for Operations when the financial scandal emerged at the bank, because he was nolleprosequi with prejudice last month. Besides Mr. Sirleaf, the prosecution here also entered a nolleprosequi (dropped charges) in favor of defendants Richard H. Walker, Dorbor M. Hagba and Joseph Dennis.

The government here indicted the officials in 2019 for their alleged roles in the misapplication of billions of Liberian Dollars printed and shipped to Liberia to replace old local currency after a series of mass protests led local and international institutions to investigate a claim that the money had gone missing. The defendants are accused by prosecution of flagrantly violating Chapter 15, Section 15.51 of the New Penal Law of Liberia. According to the indictment, the CBL Board of Governors in exercising their corporate power and authority, passed a resolution dated 28 April 2016 for the purpose of selecting and subsequently selected Crane Currency as the vendor to print the Liberian banknotes.

Defendant Weeks and the Board of Governors including David Farhat, Emeh, Badio and Tamba are accused of deliberately failing to revert to the Legislature in line with a communication that demanded that appropriate details of the amount or quantity and denominations of the replacing banknotes be submitted to the Legislature prior to the printing and minting of coins.

Additionally, the Board is accused of mandating defendant Weeks to enter into a contract on June 12, 2019 with Crane Currency to print L$10,000,000,000 banknotes at the cost of US$10,121,689.20 before receiving the July 19, 2017 communication [from the Legislature].

At the time of selecting Crane Currency to print L$5,000,000,000, the indictment says the quantity of Liberian banknotes in circulation at the time was L$9.940 billion and that a significant number of the banknotes had worn out and mutilated, prompting the need to replace L$5,000,000,000 approved as the objective of legislative joint resolution.

The indictment says it is demonstrably inconceivable for the CBL Board of Governors to have requested the printing of L$10,000,000,000 to replace all legacy notes when they knew that the total amount in circulation that should have been replaced was L$13.792 billion. The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to willfully conceal the actual amount in circulation for the purpose of committing theft, depriving the Government of Liberia of its resources.

Further, the indictment notes that defendants Weeks, Hagba, Walker and Dennis knew or had reasons to know that from packing lists reviewed by the investigation, the total amount printed was L$13,004,750,000 and not L$15,506,000,000, but “they maliciously and purposely concealed and understated the actual amount…” because they had criminally connived.

By Winston W. Parley

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