Liberia: Case Against Crane Dropped

For nearly a year, the Ministry of Justice, led by Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, insisted that Crane Currency was charged with Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, and Criminal Facilitation.

Currency printer was never brought under the jurisdiction of her court as per her records, Judge Sammy ruled.

The Monday, January 20 ruling of Judge Nancy Sammy of Criminal Court 'C' at the Temple of Justice clearly points to the fact that the government erroneously implicated Crane Currency of receiving US$835,367.72, as a kickback after it agreed to print excess Liberia dollar banknotes that amounted to L$2,645,000,000, which was reported to have been infused into the Liberian market.

Crane Currency, a currency printing company operating in Sweden, and which is at the center of the unaccounted L$2.645 billion that involves current and past officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), is challenging the government to prove its claim.

It can be recalled that on Monday, April 1, 2019, the Ministry of Justice said: "To the contrary, Crane Currency and officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), both current and past, were charged and indicted on March 4, 2019, for Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, and Facilitation, in the printing of excess Liberian Dollar Banknotes.

However, in her ruling on Monday, Judge Sammy proved the government's assertion wrong about the charges against Crane Currency, after which she said, because only the past and current CBL's officials that were indicted and the writ of arrest was served on them and not on Crane Currency, as the government over the months had claimed.

Criminal Court 'C' Judge Judge Nancy Sammy

Meaning that Crane Currency has not been brought under the jurisdiction of her court as per her records, Judge Sammy ruled.

Notwithstanding, her ruling said, "Being the Republic of Liberia that indicted Crane Currency and has filed a motion to nulle prose quoi (drop) the indictment against Crane Currency in accordance with the law."

Sammy's ruling is in line with a request to drop the charges against Crane Currency filed before the court on January 10, 2020.

Judge Sammy wondered that while it is true that the prosecution has the right to drop a charge against a defendant as provided for by the law, "the question is, can this court grant a motion in favor of Crane Currency that has not been under the jurisdiction of her court?"

"That is," Sammy said, "the court has not acquired jurisdiction over Crane Currency in whose favor the motion to drop the charges against was filed."

"In keeping with our law... in our jurisdiction," Sammy explained, "in criminal cases, the court can only acquire jurisdiction by the services of writ of arrest on the said defendant." However, the government again failed to serve the writ of arrest on Crane Currency and asking the court to drop the charges against Crane Currency.

Notwithstanding, Sammy said, since the government requested the court to drop charges against Crane Currency on ground that it does not intend to prosecute the company, the motion, she ruled, "is hereby granted with prejudice to the state, meaning, all charges levied against Crane Currency are hereby ordered dropped, and the indictment also ordered dismissed."

She warned that government is barred from bringing these charges against Crane Currency.

It can be recalled that Crane, in a statement, shortly after the government announced about its indictment, said it has not been charged with any crime in Liberia, and at all times Crane has operated in full compliance with the law and rejects completely any allegation of wrongdoing.

However, the Ministry of Justice by then rubbished the company's statement.

Crane says it "fulfilled its contractual obligations as set out in two delivery contracts and two subsequent documented agreements between the CBL for Crane to deliver the finished banknotes, and every banknote delivered was properly invoiced and accounted for. Crane was paid in full the correct amount (and no more) as was being agreed with our Liberian customer for these contracted deliveries of banknotes, and there were no excess or improper payments made by the CBL or any other party."

"Crane challenges these allegations as strenuously as possible. In the spirit of openness and transparency, we have also shared all relevant evidence from within Crane with the authors of the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team reports," said Crane.

This, among other claims by Crane Currency, the Ministry of Justice categorically refutes. "Crane Currency's claims that it did not print and deliver excess Liberian Dollar Banknotes to the CBL is not supported by the facts, as contained in the Reports of the Presidential Investigation Team (TIP) and Kroll Associates, Inc. (Kroll)," the Ministry says.

In a statement issued late Monday, April 1, 2019, the Ministry of Justice said: "To the contrary, Crane Currency and officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), both current and past, were charged and indicted on March 4, 2019, for Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, and Criminal Facilitation, in the printing of excess Liberian Dollar Banknotes.

"During the investigation by the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT), the airway and seaway bills, along with the packing lists, clearly established that Crane printed 18.6 billion Liberian dollar banknotes over and above the 15 billion Liberian dollar banknotes it was contracted to print.

"These claims by Crane Currency are totally without merit, not made in good faith, not supported by the records at the CBL and Crane Currency's own records submitted to the PIT and Kroll.

"The Ministry of Justice wishes to emphasize that after receiving Crane Currency reaction to their Reports, both Kroll and PIT have stated that they stand by the Findings regarding the printing of excess Liberian dollar Banknotes by Crane Currency."

The case grew out of an indictment that alleged that between April 2016 up to and including August 2018, the indicted CBL officials conspired with co-defendant Crane Currency to execute two contracts for the printing of Liberian dollar banknotes in the amounts of L$5,000,000,000 and L$10,000,000,000 prior to the approval or authorization by the Legislature.

"The printing of and payment for the excess amount of Liberian dollar banknotes and the concealing of the actual amount of Liberia dollar banknotes in the amount of L$2,645,000,000 was geared toward defrauding the CBL and laundering the said amount," the court document claimed.

The document further alleged that Hagba, Walker, Dennis and Crane Currency knew and had reason to know that L$2.645 billion banknotes from the two printing contracts executed by the CBL and Crane Currency for printing of L$15 billion banknotes, proceeded to and did provide false information and reports on the actual quantity of Liberian dollar banknotes printed, supplied and delivered by Crane Currency to the CBL.

Before that, the indictment claimed that Charles Sirleaf, then serving as acting Executive Governor, made a request through former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who happened to be his mother, to the Legislature. The intent was to print L$5 billion banknotes to replace the legacy notes and that Houses, the Senate, and Representatives, through a joint resolution granted approval to the CBL for the printing.

Later, the document alleged, a contract was executed between the CBL and Crane Currency that was signed by the defendant Sirleaf and with co-defendant Crane for the amount of US$5,210,000 for the L$5 billion banknotes to be printed. It said though the approval for the printing of the L$5 billion new banknotes was granted by the Legislature on May 17, 2016, that co-defendant Sirleaf had earlier executed and entered into a contract with co-defendant Crane on May 6, 2016, eleven days before the Legislature approved the request for the printing.

"Article II of the contract signed for the printing of the L$5 billion banknotes provides for the allowance of plus or minus 1.5% fluctuation in the actual quantity of banknotes to be printed due to practicalities of banknotes printing, and that the CBL and Crane Currency would treat such instances by mutual consent through the establishing of side letters," the indictment said.

But, it added the defendants printed L$5,146,250,000 new Liberian dollar banknotes with L$146,250,000 in excess of the approved amount. That through the contract amount for the printing of the L$5 billion was US$5,210,000, the defendants paid to Crane Currency US$5,611,469.58, an excess of US$401,469.58 when there were no side letters for the extra Liberia dollar banknotes printed as provided for in the contract.

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