Liberia: EJS, Tyler, Jallah & Tweah Summoned in Missing Billions Probe
Monrovia – FrontPageAFrica has reliably learned that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Ex-Pro Temp Armah Jallah, Ex-Speaker Alex Tyler and the current Minister of Finance, Samuel Tweah have been summoned by investigators looking into the missing Liberian dollars mystery.
Report By: Alpha Daffae Senkpeni / [email protected]
Multiple sources confirmed to FrontPageAfrica Sunday that investigators looking into the case have only been able to allocate less than One billion in the vault at the former National Housing Bank of Liberia (NHSB).
Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Liberia, through USAID, announced that it has reached out to independent internationally recognized firms specialized in forensic investigations to ascertain the basic facts of the alleged missing billions. And major persons of interest have been called in and asked to cooperate with the investigation.
Persons of interest
It was under the watch of former President Sirleaf that the US$15 billion dollar was printed and brought into the country. She has remained insistent that there was nothing illegal about the printing of the new banknotes although some members of the 54th Legislature are contending that additional L$10 billion was printed illegally.
“The Central Bank is an autonomous institution, the National legislature by its constitutional role gives approval for the printing of banknotes – the record on that is clear. Why they didn’t take time to look at the records before coming up. What a clearly lies,” Sirleaf argued in defense of her administration.
But with these controverting accounts, sources say, Madam Sirleaf is a person of interest in the ongoing probe by the US backed investigation. She revealed being knowledgeable of the newly printed 15 billion Liberian dollars, but couldn’t confirm whether the CBL put the money in circulation or in its vault.
For former Speaker Alex Tyler, he would have to answer to inquiry about the signing of a joint resolution, which gave authorization to the CBL to mint the new banknotes. Some members of the 53rd Legislature, who are also members of the 54th Legislature are refuting claims that the two resolutions were approved by plenary.
It is the similar situation with former Pro-Temp of the Liberian Senate Armah Jallah, who also headed the upper house when the resolution to print the additional money was adopted – although some say it was a sinister move orchestrated by the Executive branch at the time to usurp the Legislature power to authorize the printing of new currency.
It is unclear what Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah would have to answer to, but his differing comments from initial accounts by Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe – official spokesman of the Weah-led government – drew a lot of concerns from observers with some alleging that it was a ploy to cover-up the biggest financial scandal in the country’s history.
“The total amount of money printed in the country over the last two years is L$15 billion, forget about what Minister [Lenn Eugene] Nagbe said. So, the fake story that came out about L$9 billion is saying that of the L$15 billion, nine is missing – now think about that – the entire amount of money supplied in the country half of it is missing – you don’t have an economy, you don’t have a country,” said Min. Tweah during a call-in section on OK FM on September 20.
How Much in the Vault?
Just before the US Embassy made the announcement that it was initiating an investigation, the Central Bank of Liberia governor Nathaniel Patray had declared that the CBL had no record showing that monies printed under its authority have not yet been delivered into its reserve vaults.
“Records from Crane Currency of Sweden, which was contacted to print the money, show that Crane delivered L$15.5 billion through the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport between 2016 and 2018, and that all these monies were logged by the CBL and delivered into the reserve vaults of the CBL,” said Governor Patray.
However, FPA has discovered that between November 2017 and June 2018 only L$17 billion Liberian currency was in circulation. This includes both old and new banknotes.
According to the CBL Monthly Economic Review, in November 2017 – the beginning of the period the controversial L$10 billion was printed and brought into the country – there was L$13 billion circulating in the economy and by December, additional L$2 billion was infused.
Despite the printing of the additional L$10 billion and its subsequent entry into the country, only additional L$2 billion was put into circulation by the end of July 2018, according to the CBL monthly review.
No additional details of monthly reviews for August and September 2018 regarding the amount of Liberian dollar in circulation can be found on the CBL website. This leaves observers scratching their heads about the total amount of money currently in circulation and what is available in the CBL vault.
On October 3, Representative Solomon George, a stanch member of the ruling CDC, expressed doubts over the availability of money in the vault.
“This governor is saying they audited the papers and yes the money was taken to the vaults. We are requesting as the people’s representatives can you take us to where the money is being kept? We heard the money was brought in containers and bags, so take us to see the billions in the vaults,” said George, representative of District #7, Montserrado County.
Sources have told FPA that the US investigators have been allowed to inspect the vault, visit commercial banks and key financial institutions in a bid to get to the bottom of the scandal.
FPA has also gathered that investigators have found small amount of local currency currently in the vault, contradicting CBL’s earlier assertions that it could account for the entire reported mission L$15.5 billion.
The US$25 Million Question
Meanwhile, regarding the US$25 million that was expected to be infused into the economy to help curb the rising foreign exchange rate, a source closed to the investigation team told FPA that contrary to what Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf previously told investigators that it was the Ministry of Finance who had a list with the breakdown, it was actually the CBL that divided the money with a select group of money exchangers. Debate over how the money was distributed is said to be pivotal to the ongoing investigation with both the CBL and the MOF trading blames.