Weeks left hanging to dry

Former government officials providing evidence before the Plenary of the House of Representative on Thursday November 8, denied knowledge about the printing of the extra 10.5 billion Liberian bank notes, leaving Ex- Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Governor Milton Weeks hanging dry.

The House had called in the former CBL governor and several other former government officials under the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf regime to give testimony before it in connection with the alleged missing billions of Liberian bank notes.

Amongst those who testified on Thursday were former House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay and former Justice Minister Cllr. Fredrick Cherue and ex-CBL boss Weeks. Both Nuquay and Cllr. Cherue denied knowledge or giving any authorization to the CBL to print additional money following the printing of the initial 5bn Liberian bank notes.

Former House Speaker Nuquay told the House that the 53rd Legislature gave authorization for the printing of the initial 5bn in 2016 which were meant to replace mutilated notes on the Liberian market. He further told the House hearing Thursday that he had no knowledge about the additional 10.5bn, which the CBL had claimed they got authorization from the Legislature.

Former Justice Minister Cherue also testifying denied knowledge about the printing of the additional 10.5 billion bank notes, adding that he only heard about the additional printing on the radio and in the newspapers.

But providing further information on the “missing money”, former CBL boss Weeks maintained that there is no missing money and that all the money that were printing were received in the bank’s vaults and insisted that they received a letter of authorization to print the additional money.

The former Governor recalled that in May 2017, the CBL wrote both the Senate and the House of Representatives, stating that “in order to replace the Legacy Note,” it would have needed 10bn Liberian Dollars.”

He said the need to print the additional bank notes was based on the premise that the 5bn was not enough to replace all the Legacy notes which were already in circulation and therefore there was a need to print additional money in the tune of the 10 billion.

He says the CBL estimated a cost of about 10.4 million US Dollars to cover the printing and shipping cost.Mr. Weeks recalls that the CBL further requested that it might also be necessary to have the cost of the printing of the additional notes to replace all of the Legacy Notes included in the 2017/2018 National Budget of the Government.

But he says it was subsequently determined that it could not be included in the National Budget due to budgetary constraints.He said the bank received a letter from the Legislature in July 2017, “authorizing it to replace the Legacy Notes with new printed banknotes.”

According to him, the CBL therefore determined to fund the printing of the new notes from its reserves.“…We had already provided the statistics to the Legislature about the total amount of old notes in circulations,” he continues.

According to Mr. Weeks, “…It was on that basis that an amount of ten billion Liberian Dollars was ordered to be printed,” adding that the same printer, who printed the initial 5 billion, Crane Currency in Sweden, was used to print the additional bank notes.

The former CBL boss over and over repeated that he could not provide the exact information as it relates to dates and other documents required by the House because he had since left the employ of the bank and had no documents in his possession.He argues that the additional money arrived in the country and delivered in Liberia between October 2017 and sometime in early 2018.

Mr. Weeks says he “knows nothing about missing currency” and he has cooperated with ongoing investigation by an investigative panel.He says the total currency ordered by the CBL over two years period was 15 billion dollars, adding that all of the currency that was ordered during his tenure was received and accounted for by CBL “and none of it was missing.”

But despite his long prepare text which he read before the House defending his position on the authorization and printing of the money there was no document in his possession to justify his claims. And this he defended pretty well when he said he no longer had access to the bank and that all documents were left there.

This explanation still did not cut him loose as lawmakers still insisted that the bank may have acted on its own to print the money. The former CBL boss is expected to reappear next week along with members of his board for further questioning on the issue.

By Bridgett Milton-Edited by Winston Parley, with additional editing from Othello B. Garblah

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