“He Was Unjustifiably, Illegally Charged” – Ex-President Sirleaf Defends Son in Corruption Case
MONROVIA – Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had been holding all within since her son was temporarily held in detention for alleged corruption and economic sabotage, but Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Raza Hasan, found his way under her skin, making her vent out: “He was unjustifiably and illegally charged.”
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Mrs. Sirleaf was interviewed yesterday on Al Jazeera’s UpFront program. The line was questioning was, among other things, surrounding her appointment of her sons to key government positions which she claimed was because of their expertise.
Hasan was keen that despite such justification, the National Oil Company of Liberia ran into bankruptcy and massive corruption with the disappearance of US$30 to US$40 million under the watch of her son, Mr. Robert Sirleaf as Chairman of the Board, questioning “What special skill set did he bring to the company?”
Agitated Sirleaf could not wait for the question to end, “No, no, no,” she interrupted. “First of all, let me just say that is a blatant lie, L-I-E, lie. You go look at the records, there is nothing about that company going bankrupt. The National Oil Company ran into… because the two companies that were trying to explore for oil, Exxon Mobil and Chevron could not find oil. They pull out and that meant that this company could not continue. It’s as simple as that and the records are there.”
Hasan did not relent pressing further on alleged financial malpractices by the sons of the former president which even got the interview more heated.
Hasan: You appointed your son Charles Sirleaf as Deputy Governor there, you suspended him for his failure to declare his assets and two months ago he was ordered to be held in jail while awaiting trial for unlawfully printed local currency worth tens of millions of U.S. dollars. Did you know he was doing that?
Sirleaf: Well, I didn’t know you wanted to have an interview just to come out with outrageous statements… That is not true. That is not true. That is not true. He was unjustifiably, illegally charged.”
As Hasan grilled further for answers to Charles Sirleaf’s involvement, Madam Sirleaf said she could not continue to speak in relation to the allegations against her son, noting, “Look, our system requests that when we have a case under the jurisdiction of the court, we’re not supposed to talk about it until that matter is settled by the court. So, you’re trying to make me do things that are not right and not legal. Please don’t do that.
Charles Sirleaf, the former Governor, Milton Weeks, and other officials of the Central Bank were arrested in April for allegedly conniving to conceal the true nature of the total and actual amount of Liberian dollar banknotes printed and received by the Bank.
The Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) which was commissioned by President George Weah to investigative allegations of missing billions in Liberian dollar banknotes, uncovered that CRANE AB, the company 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.
According to the Presidential Investigation Team’s (PIT) report, the officials of the bank acted criminally by doctoring and fixing reports which were contrary to the actual amounts printed and received by the CBL.
Crane categorically debunked 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.
In its response to the PIT report, 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.
Mr. Sirleaf and his alleged cohorts made their first appearance in court Wednesday since they were released on bail from the notorious Monrovia Central Prison.
The five officials, along with their lawyers, had gone to the court to justify their sureties after the prosecution lawyers had challenged their respective bonds in order to establish their adequacy.