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Sirleaf, Weeks, others due in court today

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Information available to the NewDawn indicate that, Charles Sirleaf, the son of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s, and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), former CBL Executive Governor Milton Weeks, and Director of Banking Dorbor Hagba are due in court today, 4 March.

They were arrested from Thursday through Friday after the United States Embassy and the government here separately released their versions of reports into investigations surrounding Liberia’s alleged “missing” 16 billion local currency.

Mr. Sirleaf and Mr. Hagba were arrested Thursday, 28 February hours after the reports were released, while Mr. Weeks was later arrested Friday.
The trio are expected to give account of the excess amount of money that were printed and their roles in the alleged missing money saga.

During a follow up with police Saturday, 2 March, Police Spokesman Moses Carter told the NewDawn via mobile phone that police are not giving out names or the number of suspects that are being targeted for arrest. Instead, he says they are looking at those that are found culpable in the report.

The Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) says CBL reported 15,606,000,000 (15.6bn) Liberian dollars banknotes as the total amount printed, shipped by Crane Currency AB and received by the CBL between July 2016 and April 2018.

But the head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and member of the PIT Mr. Alex Cuffey says analysis of the packing list submitted by the CBL reveals that the amount of 18,151,000,000 (18.1bn) Liberian dollar banknotes were printed and shipped by Crane Currency.

According to Mr. Cuffey, this leaves a variance of 2,645,000,000 (L$2.6bn) Liberian dollar banknotes that is yet to be fully accounted for by the CBL.

The firm hired by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help investigate the money issue separately, Kroll Associates Inc., established that the CBL entered into a contract with Crane AB on May 6, 2016 to print new banknotes totaling LRD 5.0 billion eleven days prior to the CBL receiving full Legislature approval to print new banknotes.

The USAID report further indicates that the Legislature’s approval was not granted in the same manner as 2016 for the CBL to print a second tranche of new banknotes totaling LRD 10.0 billion in 2017.

It adds that Crane AB was awarded the second contract in June 2017 by the CBL to print new banknotes totaling LRD 10.0 billion, four weeks before two officials from the Legislature requested that the CBL replace all legacy banknotes.

The report says a letter dated July 19, 2017 from the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives Mildred Sayon and the Secretary of the Senate Nanborlor Singbeh provided an instruction to the CBL to “…replace the legacy notes completely with newly printed banknotes” but with a clear caveat that the CBL provide the Legislature with details of the quantity and denominations of the new banknotes “…prior to the printing” of the new banknotes.

The CBL did not provide the Legislature with details of the quantity and denominations of the new banknotes prior to the printing and shipping of new banknotes, the USAID report finds.

The actual value of new banknotes printed by Crane AB to Liberia totaled LRD 15.506 billion, the report says, adding that the new banknotes totaling LRD 0.506 billion were printed by Crane AB above the initial contractual amount of LRD 15.0 billion.

Besides, Kroll reveals that the CBL procured the services of Crane AB for both contracts without adhering to its own internal tendering policies for procurement.

To make matter worse, Kroll established that of the new banknotes printed and shipped by Crane AB totaling LRD 15.506 billion, the CBL had injected new banknotes totaling LRD 10.146 billion into the Liberian economy without removing from circulation (and destroying) the equivalent quantity or value of legacy banknotes (the old money).

According to the USAID report, under the direction of the Minister of Finance, the President’s Economic Management Team also conducted a separate USD 25.0 million exercise to “mop-up” excess LRD banknotes with USD banknotes.

At the time of Kroll’s review, this resulted in LRD 2.3 billion (USD 15.0 million)3 being purchased by the CBL from local businesses and foreign exchange bureaus, in an attempt to address the depreciation of the Liberian Dollar, the USAID report says.

It reveals that this action was undertaken by the CBL without a clearly documented strategy. Kroll’s independent counts of the physical cash balances in each of the CBL’s three operational vaults could not be reconciled with the CBL’s corresponding financial accounting records.
By Winston W. Parley

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