11 October 2018

Liberia: U.S. Embassy to Provide Forensic Investigators in "L$16 Billion" Saga

The United States Embassy near Monrovia said it has reached out to independent, internationally recognized firms with specialization in forensic investigations to conduct a scoping mission to ascertain the basic facts of the alleged missing currency matter, and determine to what extent a broader mission would be needed.

The current development is a direct response to request by aggrieved and disenchanted citizens under the banners, Concern Citizens United to Bring Back our Money (COCUBBOM), and Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) for international partners to help with investigators to ascertain the fate of their "missing L$16 billion."

Another civil society group, the Citizens Action for the Establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia, are in support of the groups demanding accountability in the money saga.

COCUBBOM and EFFL carried out a peaceful protest in September, calling on the US Embassy, the European Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations to intervene by embarking on the Liberian government to account for the "missing money."

The protesters also called on these international partners to provide technicians to investigate the matter as they do not trust the Liberian government on accounts that officials have been providing conflicting information surrounding the issue, and that most of the people on the presidential investigative team are related to people who are to be investigated.

According to the US Embassy release, issued on October 10, it is its assessment that such a report would be the most credible and effective means to determine quickly the scale of the problem, and would be an appropriate means for the United States to support the Liberian government's and citizens' desire to understand the allegations and facts.

"If a broader and longer investigation were found to be needed after the scoping mission has concluded, the government could discuss next steps with international partners," the release said.

The embassy noted that in order to ensure the effectiveness and integrity of the process, the U.S. and Liberian governments have agreed for the independent forensic investigators to conduct their work with full access to information needed, and without the imposition of additional actors from the government, civil society or international partners.

They went further to reach a consensus that the completed report will be made public, so that there is full transparency and understanding of the investigation outcomes.

"We urge all Liberians to remain patient as the Liberian government, assisted by the United States and other international partners, considers appropriate and expeditious means to help resolve current concerns and questions about Liberia's currency.

Meanwhile the EU Delegation in Monrovia has acknowledged receipt of petition by disenchanted citizens demanding accountability in the "missing L$16 billion."

The petition was delivered since September 24, but the EU could not acknowledge receipt of the petition to the media until October 9 when a release from there reached the Daily Observer.

In its release, the EU Delegation, like the US Embassy, commended the protesters for conducting themselves peacefully and also the government for the enabling environment provided. Stressing the need for clarity on the issue in the face of such grievous allegations, the EU Delegation said it is important that a full, complete and transparent investigation is carried out and finished as soon as possible.

The EU further notified the public that it has not provided any technical or financial support to aid the ongoing investigation by the government as being stated in the circle of the media.

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