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Weah receives lashes

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President George Weah is said to be receiving more lashes here after his called for a second audit into the US25m mop up fund.

The four collaborating opposition political parties here say President George Manneh Weah’s mandate for the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to conduct a forensic audit into how a controversial US$25m was expended is an alleged attempt to circumvent justice and shield his Finance Minister and the Central Bank Governor from prosecution.

“We believe that this is an attempt to circumvent justice and shield Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Patray and other members of the TEMT [Technical Economic Management Team] from prosecution,” the opposition parties said Monday, 11 March in Monrovia.

The parties including former ruling Unity Party, Liberty Party, Alternative National Congress and the All Liberian Party suggest that if government relied on findings from the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) and the Kroll Associates’ reports to arrest other officials, these same reports should be used as reliance for the arrests of Minister Tweah and Governor Patray.

Finance Minister Tweah chaired a Technical Economic Management Team that spearheaded the controversial US$25m mop – up exercise, with the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray as co-chair.

Since the arrests, indictments and detentions of five central bank officials, including former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s son Charles E. Sirleaf, for printing excess billion Liberian Dollars, pressure has been mounting here for President Weah to ensure that other suspects, including Minister Tweah and Executive Governor Patray are questioned how the US$25m was used in the mop-up exercise, which was conducted outside the banking system.
The calls for their investigation result from PIT’s report which determines that the TEMT and CBL deviated from the conventional best practice, which calls for the use of legitimate banking institutions and licensed foreign exchange bureaus or sale auction.

According to the PIT, the TEMT and CBL sold a total of US$14m in exchange for a total of L$2,151,363,898.00 between the periods July 17, 2018 to September 18, 2018.

The four collaborating political parties say they and the majority of Liberians are baffled by the government’s decision to arrest some Liberians based on these two reports, and yet calls for audit when it comes to President Weah’s confidants – Tweah and Patray.

“We are not comfortable with this decision and believe that this is yet another attempt by President Weah to shield his confidants for the crimes they might have blatantly committed,” the parties indicate.

Mr. Benoni Urey who currently chairs the collaborating parties says it is a glaring fact that audit reports are not normally the basis for prosecution here.

He argues that audit reports create room for a further criminal investigation to be conducted by either the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) or the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

According to Mr. Urey, while audit reports of the GAC are subject to criminal investigations by the LACC, criminal investigations conducted by the LACC are not subject to audits by the GAC.
The collaborating parties say government needs to use the same PIT report to prosecute those responsible for allegedly stealing the US$25 million.

They suggest that if the government chooses to do further investigation, any such investigation must be a continuation of the PIT investigation and could incorporate the GAC to give technical support.

They believe that by requesting the GAC to exclusively conduct the forensic investigation without LACC and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU’s) involvement, government is only inserting another layer in the process that could create the basis for unnecessary delay to bring to justice all those who allegedly bear culpability for the misuse of the US$25 million during the mop-up exercise.

They further remind President Weah of his commitment to serve the Liberian people irrespective of their financial, social or political positions in society.

Additionally, the opposition parties caution President Weah that the rest of the three officials that remain incarcerated for their roles in Liberia’s billions of local currency scandal have health challenges too that in some instances, may be even worse than Deputy Governor Charles E. Sirleaf’s case.

Mr. Sirleaf and Mr. Weeks were bailed out from central prison on Friday, 8 March following review of their respective bonds.
Criminal Court “C” Judge Boima Kontoe said the rest of the three defendants had not tendered their bonds.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor –Edited by Winston W. Parley

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