Liberia: Government Drops Charges against Crane Currency Paving Way for Printing of New Money

MONROVIA – The Government of Liberia will no longer pursue criminal charges against Crane Currency and has, in fact, said the company was honest in its dealings with the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), and acted within the laws governing the CBL.

FrontPageAfrica has been able to obtain a letter written by the Justice Minister/Attorney General, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, acknowledging that the company did no wrong in the execution of the two printing contracts awarded by the CBL.

“Having reviewed information additional to that contained in the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Term (PIT) reports, including the detail of packing lists, air cargo manifests and airway bills, the Government of Liberia accepts Crane Currency entered into contracts with the Central Bank of Liberia in good faith, in reasonable reliance on the Bank’s lawful authority. The Government of Liberia further accepts that Crane Currency acted in good faith throughout the execution of two (2) banknote printing orders of the Central Bank of Liberia in 2016 and 2017,” Cllr. Dean stated in the letter.

The letter which is dated January 10, 2020 was addressed to Mr. Peter Brown, Crane Currency’s Acting Commercial Director for Africa and the Middle East.

‘Honest In Its Deals’

Crane was drawn in the L$16 billion fray when the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) in their investigative report stated that CRANE which was contracted by the CBL in two separate contracts to print banknotes totaling L$15 billion at the cost of US$15,331,689.20 conspired with officials of the CBL to defraud the Government of Liberia by ignoring the terms and conditions of the contract and went ahead to print L$18,151,000,000 in breach of the contract. The Government of Liberia incurred an extra printing cost of US$835,367.78.

The company was then indicted by the government for criminal conspiracy, money laundering and economic sabotage.

But, in a somersaulting move, the Justice Minister said after a careful review of both the PIT and Kroll Reports, it has been able to establish that Crane Currency honestly accounted for amounts printed as per its contract.

“…the company accurately and honestly accounted for, audited, invoiced and was paid for every banknote delivered on both orders. Crane Currency did in fact deliver the correct number and value of banknotes, as set out in two (2) delivery contracts and subsequent documented agreements between Crane Currency and the Central Bank of Liberia. It is clearly documented that every banknote manufactured by Crane was delivered to and accepted by the Central Bank of Liberia and that Crane was paid the correct amount for the banknotes delivered,” the Justice Minister’s letter to Crane Currency stated.

“Having reviewed information additional to that contained in the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Term (PIT) reports, including the detail of packing lists, air cargo manifests and airway bills, the Government of Liberia accepts Crane Currency entered into contracts with the Central Bank of Liberia in good faith, in reasonable reliance on the Bank’s lawful authority. The Government of Liberia further accepts that Crane Currency acted in good faith throughout the execution of two (2) banknote printing orders of the Central Bank of Liberia in 2016 and 2017”

– Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, Minister of Justice/Attorney General, Republic of Liberia

Response to Kroll/PIT Reports

In its response to Kroll and PIT, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has obtained, Crane explained that it entered into the two printing contracts in reasonable reliance on the CBL’s apparent authority to lawfully award and enter into the subject contracts. The printing house insisted that it at all points worked with the CBL to enter into and perform under the contract and to agree to all changes in writing.

Crane further explained in its response that each contract, one signed on May 6, 2016 for the printing of L$5 billion and the later on July 28, 2017 for the printing of L$10 billion, was subsequently amended by mutual agreement in writing between they and CBL to include the delivery of additional over-produced banknotes and to reflect changes in CBL’s shipping requirements (e.g. by airfreight rather than by sea, to accommodate the CBL’s accelerated schedule). 

According to Crane, all changes to the contracts were memorialized in exchanges of letters, emails and invoice statements.

Why Did Crane Overprint?

First of all, Crane disputed that it illegally overprinted an excess of over L$3 billion at the extra cost of US$835,367.78 as mentioned by the PIT.

According to the printing house, all contract amendments were memorialized in email exchanges between Crane and the CBL to cover additional banknote deliveries and changes to shipping requirements. Crane noted that there was mutual consent with respect to the additionally produced banknotes. Crane stated in its response that copies of the emails and other communications with respect to the amendments of the contract were given to Kroll and the PIT.

The company noted contrary to the PIT report that it printed and delivered L$18,151,000,000 in breach of the L$15 billion agreement, it in reality delivered a total of 251,220,000 banknotes worth L$15,506,000,000, which is broken down into the different denominations.

In its explanation for the printing of L$15.5 billion instead of the stipulated L$15 billion, Crane said:

“Additional banknotes were offered by Crane to the CBL because the printing process went more smoothly than planned, generating additional ‘good notes’. It is common in the banknote printing industry, given the complexity of banknote production and the high costs involved in setting up separate production runs, to over-produce the number of banknotes on a single print run. This enables the printer to remove and destroy any/all imperfect banknotes, whilst guaranteeing to be able to deliver the total number of perfect banknotes to the customer. The actual print quantity required to ensure perfect quality can vary by several percentage points. The 2016 Contract with CBL specifically contemplated that, given the nature of specialized, multi-step printing process required for banknote printing, a margin of error should be built into production to ensure that clients’ delivery needs were met.”

Double Counting?

The PIT report stated that an examination of the air and seaway bills, along with the packing lists clearly established that Crane printed L$18.6 billion in banknotes above the agreed L$15 billion it was contracted to print.

Kroll’s report indicated that Crane printed and delivered L$15,506,000,000.

In its response to the PIT, Crane said after conducting a forensic examination of its packing list, airway bills (produced by the airline) and cargo manifest (produced by airline crew) and comparing the actual records of deliveries made against what the PIT reported report section 5.2.2d, it identified areas where the shipping records do not support the conclusions made in the PIT report.”

Crane: “For the 2016 Contract (see Appendix) there is agreement between the shipping data and the PIT report conclusions. On a line-by-line basis there is agreement that 5146,25 MLRD was shipped and received.”

“For the 2017 Contract (see Appendix) the following records show agreement between 13 shipments and 10-line items in the PIT report list: i. 8 shipments match exactly with the PIT list at a total value of 6909,75 MLRD. ii. 2 shipments with a value of 225 MLRD match the single PIT list entry of 450 MLRD. iii. 3 shipments with a value of 2025 MLRD, 270 MLRD and 232,5 MLRD match a single PIT list entry of 2527 MLRD.”

“However, for the 2017 Contract the PIT report counts deliveries by two Brussels Airlines flights that were in fact cancelled. As a result, the report double-counts deliveries (the flights that were cancelled and the flights that actually happened) and overstates the total number of banknotes delivered to Liberia by 2645 MLRD.”

According to Crane, the PIT wrongly stated that 2700 million Liberian dollars and 417,5 million Liberian dollars in banknotes were delivered, totaling 3117,5 million Liberian dollars.

“The shipping and packing records agree that in fact only 472,5 MLRD of banknotes were delivered. This error has led PIT to conclude that Crane has shipped [3117,5 – 472,5] = 2645 MLRD more banknotes than CBL actually received,” Crane further explained.

The printing house contended that the double counting on the part of the PIT likely occurred because Brussels Airways cancelled and rearranged their air cargo movements 

“This double-counting has likely occurred because Brussels Airways cancelled and rearranged their air cargo movements.”

Brussels Airways cancelled its flights on December 13 and December 21 due to issues at Brussels airport. The cancellation of the flights led to the cancellation of two shipments totaling L$3117.5 million, Crane explained.

Brussels airport staff, accordingly, divided the two planned air cargo loads into three new air cargo shipments. Two of the shipments, for 472,5 MLRD and 620 MLRD, were shipped by Brussels Airlines to Monrovia in a different configuration than originally planned, Crane indicated.

According to Crane, Brussels sought to deliver the remainder of the goods before an announced strike at Brussels airport, therefor, the remaining volume of 2025 MLRD (AWB UKL-100019284) was delivered on-board a chartered aircraft from Ukrainian Air Alliance. For completeness, this is the same flight that also contained two separate shipments: 270 MLRD (AWB UKL-10019295) and 232,5 MLRD (AWB UKL10019306). 

Charges Dropped

According to the Attorney General, the Government has therefore decided to drop all charges against the printing firm – a move that might pave the way for the awarding of contract for the printing of new Liberian dollar banknotes by Crane.

According to the Justice Minister, the indictment has been dismissed and no legal action of any kind will be brought against Crane with regards to the 2016 and 2017 printing contracts with the CBL. 

In that regard, the Justice Minister has filed with Criminal Court ‘C’ a Motion to Nole Prosequi (drop charges) against the company. 

“Movant prays Your Honor to dismiss these proceedings and have same stricken from the records of this court as if they were never filed, and thereby relief Crane Currency and its officials any and all charges either growing of this case, now or in the future, as in keeping with law,” he petition stated.

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