LIBERIA: Missing Container Loot Upgraded from L$9-L$16 Billion
Monrovia – The controversy surrounding the mysterious disappearance of billions of Liberian dollars took another twist Tuesday when the government’s chief spokesman, Information Minister Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe, revealed that the amount in total is actually L$16 billion and not L$9 billion as has been reported.
The revelation is fueling angry sentiments across the country with many baffled over how such an astounding amount slipped through security apparatus into thin air.
Speaking on the VOA Daybreak Africa Tuesday, Minister Nagbe said the administration which until now has been mum on the matter, is now taking the matter seriously.
Said the minister: “We can confirm that the money was brought through the Freeport of Liberia and the Roberts International Airport and for now it is US$16 billion Liberian dollars that we have confirmed. An estimated of a little over 15 billion Liberian dollars as far as we have concerned from the ongoing investigation as of today and it came in the two ports of entry.”
The minister said in November of 2017, the investigation has determined and confirmed that a batch of banknotes came in the country – just before the president assumed office. “Now, when the president received information about these newly-minted banknotes, he sanctioned an investigation which is being chaired by the Ministry of Justice and the Financial Intelligence Unit(FIU) and other security apparatus. The idea is to understand how much money came into the country, how much was ordered, how much was printed, which country it was printed in and how did it affect the foreign exchange situation in the country.”
The minister further noted that heads will roll when the investigation is completed. “I can assure you that at some point during this investigation, we will call people in, people will be arrested and indicted.”
Asked who has the right or authority to print and bring money into the country, Minister Nagbe explained: “When you say the Liberian government, you have to realize that we have a unique situation where a democratically-elected government was taking over from another democratically-elected government – so there was a transition. Now, before the transition happened the order was already in place by the government of Liberia but because we had new president one would have thought that this new president would have been informed about all of these transactions during the transition notes that was presented to him during the transition meeting but he was not aware. But I’m quite sure under our law the national legislature grants authority to the Central Bank of Liberia to print notes. In this case, it was like a carte blanche, so people just started printing money and bringing money into the country.”
The minister added that the object of the investigation is to find out how much was printed – “which country – some were printed in Sweden, some were printed in China, some were printed in Lebanon.”
The minister said the information is that mostly Liberian dollars was infused into the country as part of this circumstances. “In 2016-2017 the total amount of Liberian dollars in circulation, according to the Central Bank of Liberia was put at six billion. So, the difference of sixteen billion will have a serious ripple effect on the country. It was printed in and how did it affect the foreign exchange situation in our country and I can assure you that at some time in this investigation we will call people in, people will be arrested, people will be indicted.”
The government has until now been mum on the matter but a statement from Minister of Justice Cllr. Frank Musah Dean Monday appeared to suggest that the previous administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was responsible for the missing container.
“Initial findings indicate that the container and bags of moneys allegedly arrived between November 2017, prior to the inauguration of the current government and August 2018. Evidence available to the investigative team has established that the current administration was not informed about the arrival of the containers and bags of moneys into the country.”