Liberia: Crane Currency Denies Being Overpaid for Excess Banknotes, Says It’s Customary for Excess to be Printed
MONROVIA – Crane Currency has categorically debunked the Presidential Investigation Team’s (PIT) report that it, in breach of the contracts with the Government of Liberia, connived with officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to print extra banknotes at the expense of the Liberian government.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The PIT in its 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 PIT found Milton Weeks, former Governor of the Central Bank, Charles Sirleaf, Deputy Governor for Operations, Hagba Dorbor, director of banking, Richard H. Walker and Joseph Dennis liable of conniving to conceal the true nature of the total and actual amount of Liberian dollar banknotes printed and received by the CBL.
They were all arrested upon the release of the report on February 29. Currently, they face charges of economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy and Misuse of Public Money, Property or Records and Illegal Disbursement and Expenditure of Public Money.
Crane, according to the Ministry of Justice, faces the same charges.
But in its response to the PIT report, 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.”
Being the first time printing for Liberia, Crane said it was difficult estimating the production margin for error. However, production happened to be better than expected, thereby, generating excess banknotes.
“When the excess banknotes were identified relative to the 2016 Contract, a discussion took place and the CBL was given the option of (i) having the excess banknotes destroyed; (ii) asking Crane to hold the banknotes in safe storage in anticipation of possible future requests; or (iii) to buy the excess banknotes. The CBL agreed in writing to receive the excess notes at the unit price of the 2016 Contract. When overproduction occurred again under the 2017 Contract, Crane again offered the excess stock to CBL, but this time free of charge (in recognition of the fact that some shipments under the 2017 Contract had been delayed), requesting only that the CBL pay the shipping costs for the excess notes. Again, with mutual consent, the CBL instructed Crane to deliver all of the excess notes produced, at no cost to the CBL other than the cost of shipping.”
Did PIT Err?
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).