FPA EXCLUSIVE: Documents Show Missing Billions Docked at Freeport and Turned over to Central Bank of Liberia
FrontPageAfrica has obtained exclusive documents detailing how the shipment of LD16 Billion was delivered at the Freeport of Monrovia and Turned Over to the Central Bank of Liberia, dismissing statements from both Minister of Justice Frank Musah Dean and Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe that the billions in question docked at the port in November 2017 – prior to the ushering in of the George Weah-Led Government
LONDON – Documents in possession of FrontPageAfrica suggest that the LD$16 billion now drawing the George Weah-led government under domestic and international scrutiny was signed for in February and March 2018 and not November 2017 as previously stated by both the government’s chief spokesman, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe and Justice Minister and Attorney General Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, who is also the chief legal advisor to the President.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
Minister Dean on Monday, confirmed after months of silence by the government that a Special Presidential Investigative Team, comprising investigators from the Liberia National Police(LNP), the National Security Agency(NSA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit(FIU) was constituted by President Weah and mandated to probe into information surrounding the arrival of containers and bags of moneys into the country by and thru the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport(RIA).
According to Minister Dean, initial reports indicated that the containers 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 money into the country,” the minister said.
CBL Took Delivery Feb. 2. 2018
On Tuesday, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe in a VOA Daybreak Africa interview reiterated that the current administration had nothing to do with the controversial missing money controversy.
The minister said the ongoing investigation has determined that in November of 2017 a batch of banknotes came in the country – just before the president assume 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 went on to confirm that the money was not LD9 billion as first reported but actually LD16 billion. The Minister said the money was brought through the Freeport of Liberia and the Roberts International Airport. “An estimated of a little over 15 billion Liberian dollars as far as we have concerned from ongoing investigation as of today and it came in the two ports of entry.”
In one of the documents in FPA’s possession, Ms. Grigsby-Toe, Assistant Director/General Support Section at the Central Bank of Liberia, wrote the management of the National Port Authority on February 2, 2018 notifying the port that the bank was taking delivery of the money.
The memo noted: “Kindly allow our brokers Mr. Lawrence Sirleaf and Ms. Elise G.N. Jolo of JV’s Enterprises Inc. along with the Banking Staffs of the Central Bank of Liberia and the Liberia National Police(ERU) to take delivery of two (2)x20 ft containers of the Printed Material from the Freeport of Monrovia on February 5, 2018.”
The communication listed the following individual as CBL staffers: Musulyn Jackson, Oldada Deshield, Zinnah Davidson, Prince Bull, Moses Kollie and from the LNP – Savior A. Howard, Jimmy Davies, John B. Forkpa, Tamba Saah, Perry G. Karr, Nawojah Gbalon, Aloysious Zoetome, Patrick Kennedy and Robert Jallah.
Another communication from Mariea Gribsy-Toe, Assistant Director, General Support Section of the CBL on March 31, 2018 wrote the NPA requesting the management of the NPA sought permission the brokers in persons of Lawrence Sirleaf and Miss Elise G. N. Jolo of JVS Enterprise Inc. along with the banking staff of the CBL and ERU officers to take delivery of one 20ft container of printed materials from the Freeport of Monrovia on March 31, 2018.
Batch of Notes from Sweden
FrontPageAfrica also has in its possession, an application for special permit for the container which shows a shipment of banknotes from Sweden. That batch was transported by the Safmarine which arrived or was expected to arrive on November 22, 2017, suggesting that the container was docked in the port but not unloaded until February when the new administration took office.
The document was processed on December 13, 2017 and the 20ft container, according to the document had a total of 8,000 printed materials containing Liberia Ten Dollar banknotes – with a valued total 506,898.00(five hundred, eight hundred and ninety thousand).
Another document, a verification slip from the office of the Commissioner of Custom at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning showed that the ministry give a 100 percent approval to the shipment. Samuel D. Tweah, who serves as minister was one of the first appointees of President Weah in January, a couple of days after the president’s inauguration.
In the wake of the controversy, the current administration appear to be shifting blame on its predecessor with minister Nagbe noting Tuesday 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.”
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Information issued a circular advising what it described as “Persons of Interest” who are required to assist with the ongoing investigation into circumstances surrounding the importation of the Liberian dollar banknotes between November 2017 and August 2018, contradicting Ministers’ earlier assertions that the container was processed under the previous administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Declaring that the administration is taking the matter seriously because of its national security implications, the administration has put all ports of entry and exit on alert including land borders, air and seaports, suggesting that several officials including the former governor of the Central Bank of Liberia could be prevented from traveling until the investigation is completed.
Those on the circular include: Milton Weeks, Charles Sirleaf, George Abi Jaoudi, Richard Walker, Mariea E. G. Toe, Musulyn R.B. Jackson, Ophelia Nyenpan, Oldada Deshield, Prince Bull, J. Barquolleh Gabriel, Thedosia B. Jreh, Zinnah Davison, Solomon Jaykpah, Kollie Ballah and Andrew Pabai.
Ironically, a week prior to the revelation of the missing container full of billions of local currency, FrontPageAfrica sent out a generic email and text message to both the head of the National Security Agency and the Inspector General of the Liberia National Police making inquiries about what was in the air regarding the missing container. And most of those now said to be on the Persons of Interest list were on the list of our inquiry.
The inquiry read:
“This is Rodney Sieh at FrontPageAfrica. I’m trying to seek clarity on this issue of a reported missing LD at the Port. We are informed that the President has authorized a probe but NSA is delaying. The value of the container was $9B, LD=$33.5M.USD. The request to enter port and take delivery of printed materials on March 31, 2018 was reportedly written by Mrs. Mariea E. Grisby-Toe/Director, General Services. The Central Bank staff were Musulyn R.B. Jackson, Oldada Deshield and 5 others. ERU Officers came as police escort. The brokers were Mr. Lawrence Sirleaf and Ms. Elise G.N. Jolo of JVS Enterprise Inc………. Awaiting a response.”
FrontPageAfrica was unable to get a response from either Mr. Patrick Sudu or James Henric Pearson.
In the wake of the controversy, FrontPageAfrica contacted former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Tuesday to address the insinuations and suggestions from the current government that her administration may be responsible for the missing container.
Ex-President Sirleaf: Legacy ‘Wickedly’ Impugned
President Sirleaf took issue with the insinuations being thrown at her administration.
Said the former President: “I have been reliably informed that the Central Bank if Liberia has undertaken an internal investigation and in directive from the Minister Justice provided a full report to the police. The CBL has prepared a release that gives full evidence and clarification that refutes the statement of Minister Nagbe .This had been held for two days because the CBL Governor and the Minister of Justice have refused to approve the release. It is most unfortunate that the GOL would give false information that wickedly impugns the reputation of past officials and by extension the country itself.”
Late Tuesday, a former banker who preferred anonymity said that if the head of the government is not complicit into the huge scandal involving the missing money container, of 16 billion Liberian dollars, it can easily track the missing container; because, according to him the process of importing money is simple.
He explained that the process of importing money principally involved two individuals, namely the Comptroller, and the Head of Treasury. The comptroller or the Head of Treasury develop a code, which is sent to the importer of the money.
The banker added: “When the money arrived, it doesn’t leave the plane or the ship until the comptroller or the Head of treasury put together a small team; the head of the team is given the code. The head of the team will then present the code to the captain of the ship or the pilot before the money is released to him. When the money is released to him as head of the team, the money is taken directly to the bank. The only people who could give instructions to divert the money is either the President or the Comptroller. And so, in the instant case, the so-called investigation or question should be directed to the team or the Comptroller or the Head of Treasury as to who instructed them to divert the money from going directly to the Central Bank? And where was it taken?”
Minister Nagbe in his VOA interview Monday, when asked who has the right or authority to print and bring money into the country, Minister Nagbe explained: “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 was printed in Sweden, some was printed in China, some was printed in Lebanon.”
The minister said the information is that mostly Liberian dollars was infused into the country as part of the missing container saga. “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.”
As the controversy intensifies, several opposition parties are now joining the call for an independent probe.
Opposition Eyeing Independent Probe
Mr. Alexander Cummings, the leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) says all Liberians should be very alarmed by the alleged disappearances of containers and bags of moneys amounting to L$16 billion from the Freeport of Monrovia. “I want to say formally, all Liberians should be demanding an independent investigation,” he said on Sky FM in Monrovia on Tuesday morning.
The former ruling Unity Party in a statement Tuesday added its voice, declaring that the reported disappearance of billions of Liberian dollars which amounts to more than 100 million United States Dollars contradicts President Weah’s quest to tackle graft. “We are calling on the Weah administration to make good his promise to end corruption by launching not just a full scale investigation but to hold to account all those under whose watch this container disappeared. For not to do so would convince us Liberians and the international community that this huge volume of money has been deliberately misappropriated by the Weah administration and hence cannot account for it.”