The confiscated counterfeit notes brought in by the Nigerian traveler Ugochukwa Odom
Security apparatus in assigned in Ganta on Wednesday arrested a Guinean woman for reportedly carrying a bag that contained a huge quantity of Liberian banknotes, while on Thursday, another person -- a Nigerian man -- was held by police for being in possession of unspecified amount of suspected counterfeit Liberian dollars.
According to reports, the Guinean suspect was arrested around the Liberia-Guinea border near Ganta, the county's commercial hub, by custom authorities, while the Nigerian suspect was arrested in Ganta, after entering the country through the Liberia-Ivory Coast border in Loguatuo, Gbelay-geh District, by officers of Liberia National Police (LNP), while trying to exchange the money.
According to the Customs Collector, Mr. Ephraim Miller, the lady was arrested because the money she was traveling with was too huge and, as a customs officer, they wanted to know whether the money was within the threshold for one to legally travel with.
He said the Customs Bureau is also charged with responsibility to monitor money laundering and determine whether the money in question is a legal tender bank note.
Mr. Miller said the threshold of money to travel with when leaving the country is US$7,000 or the Liberian Dollar (LRD) equivalent and US$10,000 when entering into the country. However, if the money is above the threshold, the government will collect 25% of the amount as fine and the rest will be given to the owner.
He said after checking the money it will be taken to the bank to ascertain whether it is a legal tender and if, through these processes, it is in line with threshold, the money will be returned to the woman.
The seized money is undergoing counter checking at the customs conference room, Ganta Border
The Guinean suspect, Kolomou Kamara, entered the Ganta main border with over L$1,719,000 in two big rice bags.
She told reporters that the money was obtained from selling agriculture products, including pepper, beans, groundnuts, among others, from Guinea to Liberia.
She said the money was taken to Guinea to purchase another goods but, due to the escalating fall of Liberian dollars to both the Guinea franc and the US, she decided to bring the back to exchange them to US$.
"I sell agriculture products, including dried pepper, beans beniseed and groundnuts in Liberia, but most time I take the Liberian dollar to Guinea to exchange it with U.S. dollars, but because of the high inflation rate, I decided to take it back to Liberia so that one of my friends will exchange it at the rate of L$157 for US$1, after keeping it for two months," she said.
"The denominations were mixed, something they have to put in order before taking them to bank for checking," the collector has said. "We told the woman to put the money in order, so we can take it to the bank," he said.
"This is not our first time on this exercise here. It was done with another traveler and, after we found that the money he was traveling with met the threshold, we left him to go," he added.
Police said suspect Ugochukwa P. Odom, 30, entered Liberia through the Loguatuo border, with about L$1.3 million, before being arrested upon a tipoff in Ganta.
For Odom, he admitted spending 2000 Naira to print the "fake Liberian dollars" in Calabar State.
Shortly after the two suspects were brought at the Ganta Police Detachment, Odom said he traveled from Nigeria with the counterfeit Liberian banknotes through La Côte d'Ivoire, via Loguatuo Border, to infuse them into the Liberian market.
The money, he said, was printed in Nigeria in order to bring it to Liberia for "business purpose."
Meanwhile Ganta residents, specifically the business community, have expressed concern over news of counterfeits being infused into the economy, thus exacerbating the prevailing economic situation in the country.
Ishmael F. Menkor