Conspiracy Theories Abound As Liberia Revenue Authority Gives Central Bank Greenlight For US$15m Mutilated Banknotes Exchange
Monrovia – Several boxes reportedly containing millions of dollars in cash raised a few eyebrows this week. Coming on the heels of the missing LD16 billion and the US$25 Million saga, FrontPageAfrica received several tipoffs that the Central Bank of Liberia had authorized the printing of additional foreign exchange dollars into the country.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
FrontPageAfrica came into possession of a communication dated May 21, 2019 in which the Liberia Revenue Authority granted the Central Bank of Liberia authority to re-export a total of US$14,073,678.00 (four million Seventy-Three Thousand, Six Hundred Seventy-Eight United States Dollars) in mutilated bank notes.
Mr. Saa Saamoi, Commissioner of Custom wrote: “We acknowledge receipt of your letter on May 16, 2019 in which you request permission to re-export US$14,073,678.00 (four million Seventy-Three Thousand, Six Hundred Seventy-Eight United States Dollars) mutilated bank notes to Travelex Banknotes Limited in the United Kingdom for exchange to useable circulated banknotes. We wish to inform you that your request to re-export the above-mentioned mutilated banknotes is granted in line with laws governing government projects. Accordingly, you are required to complete a declaration at your selected Customs Port of entry for re-export.”
It is unclear why the CBL did not go through the US Federal Reserves instead of using a private company, Travelex for the exchange. One official speaking on condition of anonymity Thursday said, Travelex in UK may be offering a discounted value of the mutilated notes to Liberia and making a claim in the US due to the cumbersome bureaucracy in checking and replacing mutilated notes.
Critics say such amount should go through the legislative process in the wake of the recent scandals involving LD16 billion and the US$25 million controversies.
According to the 2004 CBL Annual Report, since the inception of the bank in 1999, importation of USD banknotes and exportation of mutilated banknotes were done through CPR Billets in Paris. “Unfortunately, due to the increase in cost, Management sought for other cheaper means and engaged the services of Travelex Global and Financial Services Limited of London in December, 2004. Of the total amount imported during the year, the Bank imported US$92.1 million through CPR Billets while US$33.0 million was imported through Travelex.”
One reason for going the route of the European company CPR Billets in Paris, FPA has learned was due to the fact that then President Charles Taylor’s government was not embraced by the US government.
“Unlike now when we have a somewhat good relations with the US, the US was not open to doing business with Mr. Taylor, thus, the Federal Reserves could not deal with Liberia on the issue of mutilated notes.
Since then however, things have changed. The Federal Reserve, FrontPageAfrica has learned does not accept deposits of mutilated currency. “Mutilated currency must be sent directly to the BEP’s Mutilated Currency Division (Off-site), with a letter stating the estimated value of the currency and an explanation of how the currency became mutilated, to the correct address below based on the shipping method,” according to the website of the Federal Reserves.
The issue of mutilated and old banknotes have heightened in recent months with both commercial and Central Bank unable to meet the demands of consumers as old notes dominate the market.
In April, two Directors of the Banking Department of the Central Bank of Liberia(CBL) – Ms. Massah Sonie and Juah Feika – were suspended by the Governor Patray, for issuing “old” $100 bank notes to the office of President of Liberia a day before he departed to attend the inauguration ceremonies of the Senegalese President.