21 September 2018

Liberia: Billions' Probe Widens

Photo: Le Pays
President George Weah is reported to have asked the FBI in the U.S. to investigate claims of missing banknotes.

Investigation into the L$16 Billion mystery has been widened by the Liberian government, a move which indicates that President George Manneh Weah is not taking the probe lightly as evidenced by the expansion of investigative team.

As George Bardue reports, the President had earlier restricted the investigation to be conducted by the Liberia National Police (LNP), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and National Security Agency (NSA).

However, days following the resumption of the investigation, some Liberians requested President Weah to allow an independent body to probe the matter as a way of establishing the truth surrounding the money.

The Liberians, many of whom have been expressing their views on various radio talk shows, noted that the Weah administration cannot probe itself and officials of the Ellen government, because according to them, the incident happened between November 2017 and August 2018 under the watch of the sitting and former governments.

Additionally, prominent among those Liberians who are calling for an independent investigation is Alexander B. Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC). Cummings believes if an independent investigation is conducted, it would exhibit a high degree of transparency.

In an apparent response to the call by the people, the Liberian government, through the Ministry of Justice, has expanded the investigative team to include some independent organizations. Among reputable institutions requested to assist with the probe are the U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The government has also invited the Liberia National Bar Association, National Civil Society Organization, Association of Liberia Certified Public Accountants, Liberia Council of Churches and the National Muslim Council of Liberia to join the exercise.

According to a statement issued on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, the government said the action was in response to public calls for greater transparency, independence and inclusion in the ongoing investigation of monetary developments in Liberia. The government noted that this investigation is to adequately account for all flows of monies printed and brought into Liberia between 2016 and 2018.

The findings of the investigation, the statement indicated, will be critical to the formulation and implementation of a credible and robust monetary and microeconomic policy in the years ahead. The government is encouraging all citizens to cooperate with the investigation and the public will be duly updated as the probe unfolds.

On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, the Liberian government issued a National Security Circular advising persons of interest who are required to assist with the ongoing investigation into circumstances surrounding the importation of Liberian dollar banknotes between November 2017 and August 2018, not to leave the country.

The Government says it takes the ongoing investigation seriously because it has National Security implications. Authorities at all points of entry and exit, including land borders, air and sea ports have been directed to take due cognizance of the circular.

The circular listed 15 individuals, including current and former staff of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). Former Executive Governor Milton Weeks and Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf are among persons of interest the government is questioning for the billions of Liberian dollars.

Already, the investigators have begun extracting statements from Weeks and others in connection with the money. This paper has independently gathered that former governor Weeks has provided information to the probe team implicating some senior officials of the Ellen government.

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