Liberia: Will Govt Pursue CBL's U.S.$15 Million Loan to Bankrupt Fibll?


-Opens FIBLL's US$1.2M Theft Case at Criminal Court 'C'

As the government now concentrates on the recovery of millions of United States Dollars, through the court process, allegedly stolen out of the coffers of the insolvent (bankrupt) First International Bank Liberia Limited (FIBLL), the question is: will they also follow-up on the findings of the US$15 million acquisition of a loan the FIBLL received from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) before its bankruptcy in 2016?

FIBLL was one of the first financial institutions to surface in the aftermath of the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; however, because of its bankruptcy, the CBL negotiated with the Ghana Growth Fund Company (GGFC), operator of the GN Bank that took over the FIBLL.

The CBL on July 6, 2017, issued a statement upon receipt of the final report of the forensic investigation of the FIBLL that was commissioned by the CBL and conducted by the international auditing firm, KMPG and they then expressed serious concern about the contents of the report.

Given the level of possibly fraudulent activities at the FIBLL, the CBL highlighted in the report and forwarded it to the Executive Branch of the Government to enable engagement with the requisite judicial and legal activities to pursue the findings identified on the report, and committed to develop a detailed action plan to address the specific recommendations contained in the report.

In the absence of pursuing the KMPG's findings, the government has opened the US$1.2 million theft case that involved about ten former employees of the FIBLL, at the Criminal Court 'C', Temple of Justice.

The case has been temporarily postponed due to the engagement of Judge Nancy Sammy, and it is expected to resume early next week.

The KMPG findings which were said to be abandoned by the government, noted, "Pervasive governance failures and delays of mitigation action on the part of the CBL allowed those causes of FIBLL's failure to persist."

The reported added that, "based on the approach employed and the findings ascertained from the scope of our investigation, we can conclude that the key direct causes of the bank's failure were as follows, pervasive lack of capital and eventual insolvency of the bank. Pervasive frauds experienced at the bank."

It continued, "the bank, having exhibited characteristics akin to a Ponzi type operation by using depositor funds to repay deposit, acting illegally from 2013 onward in terms of Liberia's law by taking deposit whilst insolvent and probably trading fraudulently whilst continuing to take on obligations whilst being insolvent."

It further said, "application of the bank funding was not such that the returns thereon funded the operating cost and obligations of the bank."

In the ongoing US$1.2 million case, the former employees were charged by the government with the commission of the crime, money laundering, theft of property, criminal conspiracy and facilitation and forgery.

Those employees charged are Jermaine Tegli, head of operations; Beyan Dadzi, resident auditor; Richard Gboyah, head of operations; Victoria Yanguba, resident auditor; Africanus Freeman, cash officer; and Kebbeh Kulah, also cash officer.

Others include; Roberts Cummings, Angie Brooks, Aurelia Tamba and Ngadi Warity, all tellers of the bank.

The case grew when the management of the insolvent FIBLL claimed that between the periods January 2012 to February 2013, the defendants allegedly used withdrawal slips filled in, approved, signed and, in some instances, not signed and, without the knowledge and participation of the customers, diverted an amount of US$1,220,028.54 from the bank.

They further alleged that Co-defendants Jermaine Tegil and Africanus Freeman, without any authorization, fraudulently used the bank's manager's checks account to withdraw the total amount of US$1,102,859.21.

According to the document, co-defendant Africanus Freeman, who served as cash officer, posted an amount to the system in excess of amounts actually paid to MoneyGram's and Western Union's customers and thereafter converted the amount fraudulently posted. The bank lost US$1,269,102.75.

Co-defendants Robert Cummings, Jermaine Tegli, and Africanus Freeman converted to their own use and benefit the amount of US$8,924.29 which was in the custody of co-defendant Cummings as a teller and which was illegally withdrawn and paid out to co-defendant Freeman and Tegli upon their request for an IOU.

Also on March 21, 2013, while counting money collected on March 21, 2013, in the vault, the defendants allegedly took US$248,309 and LD$40,349,285 (equivalent to US$576,418.36 at the rate of LD$70), which went missing from the vault of the bank without any authorization or document in support of its removal.

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