Former Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks says he does not know if there was joint resolution passed by the Legislature empowering the CBL to print 10 billion Liberian Dollars, arguing that the CBL Act does not specify a joint resolution, but simply states legislative approval.
On cross examination with prosecutors Wednesday, 5 August at Criminal Court “C” in Monrovia, Mr. Weeks also testified that he cannot recall if the CBL ever reverted to the Legislature, despite being instructed to furnish the Legislature with the appropriate details “prior to the printing and the minting of coins.”
“I do not know if there was a joint resolution. The CBL Act simply states that the Legislature shall give approval and does not specify a joint resolution,” Mr. Weeks says in response to a prosecution’s question if there was joint resolution passed by the Legislature to empower the CBL to print the 10 billion Liberian Dollars.
Also prosecutors say the Legislature instructed CBL through a communication of 19 July 2017 for the bank to furnish the Legislature “with the appropriate details of the volume and the denomination of the replacing banknotes prior to the printing and the minting of coins,” but Mr. Weeks says he cannot recall if CBL ever reverted to the Legislature.
“As I stated in my earlier testimony, I cannot recall if the CBL ever reverted to the Legislature,” he says, prompting prosecution to announce that it will produce a rebuttal.
Earlier on Monday, 3 August, Mr. Weeks testified that a number of issues necessitated the printing of the LD$10 billion, saying in late 2016, the government through the Finance Ministry informed the CBL it would be unable to continue to sell USD to CBL due to acute foreign exchange constraints.
Defendant Weeks informed the court that all foreign exchange that the CBL utilized came from the foreign exchange that was sold to the CBL by the government, but the government had said it would be unable to continue to sell USD to CBL due to acute foreign exchange constraints.
Following this decision of the government, defendant Weeks explains that the CBL introduced “25% surrender on inward remittance,” a category of money that he says is transferred into Liberia that are related to individuals through the banking system but use international money transfer companies such as Western Union, MoneyGram and Nobel, among others.
According to him, total inward remittances were averaging about US$240m per annum, and the 25% surrender translated into roughly US$60M or US$5m per month which had to be paid to individuals receiving inward remittances by the commercial banks.
He says the commercial banks here were constantly agitating for the CBL to [make] currency available, adding that the CBL also had significant agitation from the public and the Legislature, complaining about the use of three currencies in reference to the USD, the Old or Legacy notes and the Newly Printed Enhanced Banknotes.
Weeks says the CBL wrote the Senate President Pro – tempore in May 2017 and similarly informed the House Speaker that LD$10 billion should be printed at the estimated cost of US$10.4m following the Senate’s request for the bank to advise the Senate on how much LD would be printed to replace all the legacy notes.
He adds that the CBL received assurances that its advocacy would be considered, adding that by July 19, 2017, the CBL received a letter from the Legislature signed by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate, instructing the CBL to maintain the USD, replace all legacy banknotes and introduce coins.
Mr. Weeks says the CBL received 10.359bn, arguing that the assertion by prosecution’s witness Baba M. Boakai that the CBL received 13bn plus is not backed by the document he submitted as exhibited in the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) report which according to the defendant shows that CBL received 10.359bn.
Mr. Weeks who boasts of working in the banking sector for 26 years in top positions in Liberia, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa and Nigeria, recounts that when he assumed the position of CBL’s Executive Governor in 2016, the first contract to print LD$5 billion had already been executed by CBL management headed by Mr. Charles E. Sirleaf, ex-President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son.
Weeks and other CBL board members David Fahart, Elsie DossenBardio and KollieTamba are on trial for 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.
The government indicted the officials for allegedly printing and shipping to Liberia L$13,004,750,000.00 without authorization between 2016 and 2018 and allegedly understating the printed amount as L$10,359,750,000.00, giving a variance of L$2,645,000,000.00.
The four defendants on trial have pleaded not guilty for the charges levied against them, but the fifth defendant Melisa A. Emeh is said to be out of the bailiwick of Liberia and has not been brought to court.
Charles Sirleaf was included in the previous two indictments for this same case, but prosecutors did not include him in this third indictment after they nolleprosequi the former Deputy CBL Governor for Operations with prejudice in May this year.
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. By Winston W. Parley