Liberia: Witness Cites Violations in Central Bank Case

24 September 2019

State witness Mr. Baba Boakai says the five Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials on trial for economic sabotage and money laundering failed to show to the investigators any documents indicating that amendment or addendum was made to the contract they entered with Crane Currency, AB to print excess money.

Giving his testimony through power point presentation at Criminal Court "C" Tuesday, 24 September, government's first witness Mr. Baba M. Boakai, a Program Manager for Enforcement and Investigation at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) testified that the defendants' own records showed that they printed way above the contracted amount.

Former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf's son and Deputy CBL Governor Charles E. Sirleaf, former CBL Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks, DorborHagba, Richard H. Walker and Joseph Dennis are facing trial for alleged economic sabotage, money laundering, criminal facilitation and criminal solicitation in relation to the printing of billions of Liberian dollars.

Government says the defendants - all of whom were CBL officials - allegedly commenced the syndicate in 2017 when a request was made through former President Sirleaf to the Legislature for the printing of LRD$5bn to replace mutilated legacy banknotes.

The defendants are accused of carrying on the printing without being authorized and shipping the money into Liberia and then infusing it into the economy. The accused have denied all the charges.

Witness Boakai says investigators did not hold Crane Currency liable for getting in contract with the CBL, but they held the defendants liable for entering into contract with Crane Currency without the approval of the Legislature.

Second, he testifies that to prove that the contract was not done by mutual consent, Mr. Richard Walker immediately wrote Crane Currency, alarming that the printing that was done by the company was in excess in all denominations, contrary to the contract.

According to Boakai, Crane Currency gave two options to the CBL authorities to either notify the money printing firm to destroy the excess money; or better still, tell the firm to price CBL for the cost of the excess money and import it.

The defendants decided to take the last option, witness Boakai says, adding that "today we have the excess banknotes printed" in violation of the law.He argues that the defendants should have instructed the company to destroy the excess banknotes, but they took it upon themselves to pay Crane Currency for the printing of the excess banknotes, outside of the contract to which he says they have presented no amendment.

Additionally, Mr. Boakai testifies that when Crane could not meet the deadline to ship the money to Liberia as stipulated, the defendants again took it upon themselves to pay the extra cost to transport the money by plane, in violation of the law.

He notes that they understated the Way Bill charged by Brussels, but the latter presented to the investigators a way bill that showed that the defendants had been charged more than they reported.

In a related development, the defense team clashed with prosecutors Tuesday over the use of powerpoint presentation by its witness, but the former failed to convince the court against the government's method of seeking to prove its case.

Arguing for the defense, Cllr. AbrahimSillah says introducing powerpoint presentation without due notice to the defense team is "a trial by surprise" in violation of the rights of the defendants.

Cllr. Sillah wonders if the powerpoint presentation included pieces of evidence the prosecution gave to the defense team, noting that this particular presentation was not presented to the defense.

But state lawyer Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson says the request to introduce powerpoint presentation by witness Baba Boakai was not objected to by the defense, saying they suffer waiver and lashes.

Cllr. Johnson adds that the government has the responsibility to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, adding that the objection by defense is a waste of the court's time.Judge A. Blamo Dixon denied the defense's objection and ordered the state's witness to commence with the powerpoint presentation.

Judge Dixon affirms that the minutes of the court for the 32nd Day's Jury Sitting are silent on any objection or resistance to the application of the prosecution, following which the witness was qualified and commenced his testimony.

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