Liberia: PIT Report - L$2.645 Billion Still Unaccounted for

The Central Bank of Liberia building.

While the Presidential Investigation Team Technical Committee says the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) reported L$15,506,000 in banknotes as the total amount printed and shipped by CRANE Currency and received by the CBL between July 2016 and April 2018, the packing lists submitted by the CBL revealed that L$2,645,000,000 (Two billion, six hundred forty-five million) banknotes is yet to be fully accounted for by the Central Bank of Liberia.

Speaking at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism's (MICAT) special press briefing, he said there are over 1,500 Exhibits that have been presented to the Ministry of Justice and their perusal.

He added that he did not want to reveal names because he did not want to prejudice the case. So, what happened to the money that was not accounted for? The report, delivered by a member of the investigative team, Alex Cuffy, spoke about the circumstances surrounding the printing and importation of the legacy banknotes from January 2016 to August 2018, recommending the demonetization of the current banknotes printed in 2017, "because the additional L$10 billion the CBL printed was without the authorization of the Legislature.

He said in 2016, the CBL was authorized by both Houses of the Legislature to print L$5 billion, but the contract between CBL and Crane Currency AB -- an American printing company with offices in Sweden -- was initially consummated prior to the Legislature's decision.

Cuffy said CBL did not abide by international best practice for selecting Crane Currency to print both the authorized and unauthorized new Liberian banknotes.

"The July 19, 2017 letter from the Legislature did not constitute an authorization, and the Board of Governors does not have the mandate to approve the printing and importation of currency banknotes," he said.

Mr. Cuffy said CBL did not inform former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the final decision to print the additional L$10 billion that was not requested.

He said there were ten shipments of printed materials (new Liberian banknotes) in twenty-four twenty feet containers between September 7, 2016, and March 25, 2018, containing the new money shipped by Crane Currency and received by CBL.

"In 2016, the total amount of L$5,146,250 new banknotes printed by Crane Currency was received by the CBL. The amount of L$146,250,000 Liberian dollar banknotes were printed in excess of the L$5,000,000,000 authorized by the Legislature and contracted by CBL," Mr. Cuffy said.

Mr. Cuffy said "In 2016, the contract between the CBL and Crane Currency to print the L$5,000,000,000 banknotes was valued at US$2, 210,000. However, CBL paid Crane Currency US$5,611,469.58 instead of the contracted amount of US$5, 210,000 resulting in the overpayment of US$401,469.58."

He said the overpayment was not authorized by the Legislature and was paid outside the terms and conditions of the contract, and the CBL did not provide an amendment to the contract or any document to justify the overpayment.

"In 2017 and 2018, L$10,359, 750, 000 Liberian dollar banknotes were printed and shipped by the Crane Currency and was received by CBL. The amount of L$359,750,000 Liberian dollar banknotes was printed in excess of the L$10,000,000,000 Liberian dollar banknotes contracted for by the CBL," Cuffy said.

He said CBL did not provide evidence of performing a competitive bidding process for the selection of a company to print the new banknotes contracted for.

According to Cuffy, former and current senior management executives of the CBL were found in violation of various laws of Liberia in the discharge of their duties by endorsing the printing of L$146,250,000 above the approved amount of L$5,000,000,000 and thereby incurring an extra cost of US$401,469.58 without being authorized by the Legislature.

Mr. Cuffy said Crane Currency AB of Sweden also violated the laws of Liberia by willfully conspiring with officials of CBL to defraud the Government of Liberia (GoL), ignored the terms and conditions of the contract by printing L$18,151,000,000 in complete breached of the contract, and caused the GoL to incur the extra cost of US$835,367.72.

Mr. Cuffy said as of October 16, 2018, CBL sold US$14 million in exchange for L$2,151,363,898 between the periods of July 17, 2018, to September 18, 2018. He said the technical team did not have a clear strategy, and the CBL deviated from conventional best practice, which calls for the use of legitimate banking institutions (commercial banks) and licensed Foreign Exchange Bureaus or SALE AUCTION.

"Instead, the CBL and the team carried out the sale of US dollars directly to foreign exchange bureaus and businesses in marketplaces," Cuffy said.

"There were no standard criteria for the participation of foreign exchange bureaus and businesses in terms of their legitimacy, for example, duly registered and/or tax compliance, etc., nor due diligence associated with the direct sale in the marketplace. The principle of Know Your Customer was not observed throughout the mopped-up exercise.

"Given the many discrepancies as to the total and actual amount of new Liberian dollar banknotes printed, shipped and received by the Central Bank of Liberia, thereby creating doubts as to the total amount of Liberian dollar banknotes in circulation; as well as the negative impact said discrepancies are having on the economy, the investigation recommends the demonetization of the current Liberian dollar banknotes," he said.

CBL executives Charles Sirleaf and Dorbor Hagba are the first two individuals to be arrested following the PIT report on the alleged missing billions.

Meanwhile, reports reaching the Daily Observer yesterday indicated that shortly after Mr. Cuffy released in Monrovia yesterday, officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) arrested two CBL executives, namely: Mr. Charles Sirleaf, deputy governor for operations and the son of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; and Dorbor Hagba, director of banking.

Though the two men, who were arrested yesterday, are yet to be charged, sources say they are being held because of their roles at the CBL. While the report did not indicate that L$16 billion was missing, the investigative team revealed serious financial crimes committed against Liberia for which many Liberians have called for the prosecution of any former and current government officials who are involved in the misusing of funds belonging to the people.

When the arrest of Mr. Sirleaf, in particular, was announced, radio air-waves were filled with callers and there was apparent jubilation among the callers who supported the prosecution of anyone found wanting in the case.

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