‘Legislature Instructed CBL To Replace Legacy Bank Notes’ – Ex-CBL Governor Weeks Testifies in L$16 Billion Trial
Monrovia – Former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks says the Legislature consulted and instructed CBL to replace mutilated banknotes during his tenure at the Central Bank of Liberia and that only L$10 billon was printed and not L$15 billion as alleged by state prosecutors.
Weeks, who along with three former board members of the bank are charged with multiple offenses including misuse of public money in the printing of L$5 billion in 2016 and L$10 billion in 2017, made the statement when he took the witness stand Monday, August 3 at Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice.
Sitting in a relaxed mood just below the Judge’s seat, the former CBL boss told the court that when he resumed duty at the Bank, the contract had already been executed for the printing of the L$5 billion to replace mutilated banknotes.
Weeks testified that the L$5 billion printed was inadequate to fully replace all of the mutilated banknotes.
The former CBL Governor continued that the previous printer of the Liberian banknotes was a French Company.
“Obsrther Fiduciare, this was the company that printed what we called legacy notes and that during the first printing there was always a possibility of errors with some of the banknotes and in the case of deformities on any if the bank notes they will be removed and there will still be sufficient bank notes to meet the contract,” he explained.
Later, Weeks added that the French company approached CBL to print the L$5 billion but due to capacity constraints, they were unable to take up the assignment. At that point, the CBL contacted two other reputable banknotes printing companies – Rue and Crane Currency – and based on the price and delivery options the CBL chose Crane Currency.
Defendant Weeks stated that there was a number of issues that necessitated the printing of the L$10 billion in 2016.The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance informed the CBL that they would be unable to continue to sell USD to CBL due to acute foreign exchange and that all foreign exchange the CBL was to utilize came from foreign exchange that was sold to CBL by the GoL.
According to Weeks, following this decision of Government, the CBL as a means of generating foreign exchange, introduced what is referred to as 25 percent surrendered on inward remittances and the total amount of inward remittances using the likes of Western Union, Money Gram was averaging about 240 United States Dollars per annual meeting.
The former CBL Governor pointed out that at some point in time under his administration, there were significant agitation from the public about the presence of three different currencies in the market – Liberia, United States Dollars, old or Legacy Banknotes and the newly printed Enhanced Bank notes.
By 2017, Weeks added that the CBL officials were summoned on numerous occasions to explain to the Legislature what the CBL was doing to correct this situation.
After receiving the information the CBL engaged the Senate in Executive section and got positive response to the CBL suggestions that three things can be done, first maintain the United States Dollars as legal tender, second replace all legacy notes and third that there be an introduction of lower denomination coins that could be used to make fractionalized payments, he said.
“All of this information was provided to the Legislature either in writing or through meetings held with the Legislature; the CBL received assurances that it’s advocacy would be considered, on July 19, 2017 the CBL received letter from the Legislature signed by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate instructing us on the same three kinds: ‘maintain USD, replace all legacy banknotes and introduce coins,” said Weeks, whose testimony continues Tuesday, August 4 at 9 A.M.