Liberia: Central Bank Fires Internal Security Staffer Who tried to Counter Costa; Issues Clarity on Import, Export of US Dollar Banknotes
MONROVIA –- The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has terminated the services of Mr. Charles F. Kaizal, Internal Security Coordinator in the Governance office at the CBL hours after the walked into the studios of Henry Costa’s Roots FM 102.7 Monday to counter Mr. Costa’s allegations that a plane load of money had arrived in the country via Kenya Airways and taken to the residence of President George Manneh Weah and not the CBL.
A Central Bank official told FrontPageAfrica Monday that the decision was reached to terminate Mr. Kaizal’s services because he was not authorized to speak on such matters without approval from the governor.
President George Manneh Weah recently directed all Ministers, Deputies and Assistant Ministers, and Heads of Agencies and Commissions, and their deputies to refrain from making public comments on policy issues of national concern on both conventional and social media without first seeking authorization from the appropriate authorities. The decision followed the suspension of Mr. Eugene Fahngon, Deputy Minister for Press at the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism over insensitive remarks regarding the country-congau divide.
Asked whether Mr. Kaizal’s dismissal was related to the directive, the CBL official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the dismissal as based on the bank’s own internal policy.
Asked why the bank has not officially announced the dismissal, the official had no response but said, the action was authorized by Governor Nathaniel Patray.
In the wake of all that has happened over the past year, one would think that the CBL would have at least by now be doing all it can to erase the perception of corruption and lack of transparency and accountability.
Mr. Costa, host of the popular breakfast show on Roots FM 92.1 recently revealed that he had a bombshell to drop. That bombshell came just days before Liberians from all walks of life under the banner of the Council of Patriots prepare to take to the streets in protest against widespread corruption and a host of other issues.
During his show Monday, Mr. Costa displayed photographs and videos of what appeared to be several boxes of cash which came on a Kenya Airways flight on May 10, 2019, the same date Mr. Costa announced that he had a bombshell to release. Mr. Costa claims that the monies were taken to the home of President Weah. To the surprise of many listening Monday, Mr. Kaizal walked to the Roots FM’s studio to counter that there were in fact, two shipments of money, one arriving on May 10 and another on May 27, 2019. Although he did not get a chance to air his reactions on the air, Kaizal did leave some documents validating Mr. Costa’s assertions but noted that another shipment of money had come in on the 27th of May.
Mr. Kaizal provided two letters claiming that the boxes of money were brought in the presence of a twelve-man escort team comprising of ten Emergency Response Unit(ERU) and two Traffic officers plus six CBL staffers with five CBL vehicles and a police marked traffic escort, at approximately 2:00pm we boarded the vehicles and departed from the Roberts International Airport(RIA) to Monrovia. Mr. William Dargbeh, assistant director of banking, Prince Bull, senior auditor and Edwina Edet – cashment officer department via Kenya Airways-KQ501/Sky Team.
However the photos and videos do not appear to show only Mr. Kaizal and none of the 20 persons Mr. Kaizal claims were present when the monies arrived at the RIA.
In a related development, the CBL on Monday provided clarification regarding a story in the 31 May 2019 edition of the FrontPage Africa Newspaper entitled “Conspiracy Theories Abound As Liberia Revenue Authority Gives Central Bank Greenlight for US$15 Million Mutilated Banknotes Exchange” and subsequent discussions on a local talk show regarding receipt of monies via the Robert International Airport (RIA).
Below is the CBL’s Clarification on the shipment of money
The FrontPageAfrica Newspaper reported that several boxes containing millions of dollars in cash raised a few eyebrows. The Newspaper said it received tip-offs that CBL ‘had authorized the printing of additional foreign exchange dollars into the country.’
The CBL wants it to be known that it has neither the authority nor the capacity, and neither does any country except for the United States, to print US dollars for infusion in the economy. CBL, rather, regularly exports mutilated US dollars to be replaced with US banknotes in a transparent and routine banking exercise that the CBL has been engaged since the inception of the bank’s operations.
The FrontPage Africa Newspaper story further said, ‘it is unclear why the CBL did not go through the US Federal Reserves instead of using a private company’.
CBL re-exported mutilated US banknotes through Travelex, a private company, because it is more cost-effective. Travelex already has the infrastructure in place to facilitate such transactions, and they use this same infrastructure for many institutions. It would be too expensive to set up, especially for the CBL that does importation and exportation on a seldom basis. Rather than incurring massive costs in setting up an infrastructure that will allow the bank deal directly with the FED on an ad-hoc basis, CBL uses Travelex’s already established infrastructure at a much lower cost to the CBL.
The FrontPage Africa story speculates that Travelex might be discounting the mutilated bills presented to them and then getting the full value upon presentation to the Federal Reserve. That is not the case. The Federal Reserve pays full value, after establishing the total value of mutilated notes and Travelex gets paid a commission for their service as the conduit through which the transaction was conducted.
The FrontPage Africa Newspaper stated in that story that the printing of such amount ‘should go through the legislative process’. Again, it must be pointed out that this was not a case of printing any currency, in which case legislative approval would have been required.
Regarding the importation of US Dollar banknotes to meet the needs of the domestic financial system including the replacement of mutilated banknotes received from commercial banks, the below points are important to note:
General facts on the process
All the CBL USD banknotes needs are met through the importation of the notes from overseas via Travelex, which is paid a commission for facilitating the transaction;
To carry out this process, several steps are taken. First, the CBL wire transfers the amount to be imported plus the commission charged to the agency responsible for transferring the physical cash, Travelex in this case;
Upon receipt of confirmation of wire transfer, Travelex prepares a shipment of physical banknotes, under its own security and insurance arrangements, and have same shipped to Accra, Ghana, for onward transfer to the CBL;
When the shipment arrives in Accra, Ghana, the Bank of Ghana, under a cash custody arrangement with the CBL, takes custody of the shipment and lodges it in its vaults until the CBL is ready to take delivery;
On the day that the shipment is to be flown to Monrovia, the Bank of Ghana takes it to the Kotoka International Airport where it is loaded onto the aircraft with CBL representatives, at which point custody shifts to the CBL;
When the shipment arrives at the RIA, it is cleared through customs, loaded unto CBL vehicles, and escorted by both CBL security personnel and Liberia National Police personnel to the CBL headquarters;
Upon arrival at the CBL Headquarters, the actual value of the shipment is verified through a physical cash count and then placed in the CBL vaults;
The banking department subsequently passes the required accounting entries to account for the receipt of the cash.
Specific Facts of the Recent Importation
On March 29, 2019, the Banking Department raised the need to augment the USD vault cash position of the CBL by US$20 million based on anticipated withdrawals;
On April 4, 2019, the OIC for Operations wrote the Executive Governor requesting his approval for the importation of US$20.0 million as recommended by the Banking Department. The Executive Governor provided said approval on the same day;
On April 18, 2019, a board resolution was passed authorizing the Management of the CBL to transfer the amounts of US5.0 million and US$15.0 million from CBL’s placements with the Africa Import/Export Bank and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), respectively, to the CBL’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY). It was this total of US$20.0 million that was to be used for the importation purpose;
On May 7, 2019, the first tranche of US$10.0 million was wired to Travelex for onward shipment to the CBL;
Between May 7 to 9, 2019, Travelex packaged and shipped the US$10.0 million to Accra, Ghana, and it was received by the Bank of Ghana;
On May 10, 2019, the US$10.0 million was shipped from Accra to Monrovia, cleared through customs, escorted by staff of the CBL, CBL Internal Security, and the Liberian National Police, and was verified by the Internal Audit Department;
On May 15, 2019, the Banking Department of the CBL passed the necessary accounting entries to record receipt of the amount;
On May 21, 2019, the second tranche of US$10.0 million was wired to the FRBNY to Travelex for onward shipment to the CBL;
Between May 21 to 23, 2019, Travelex packaged and shipped the US$10.0 million to Accra, Ghana, and it was received by the Bank of Ghana;
On May 24, 2019, the US$10.0 was shipped from Accra to Monrovia, cleared through customs, escorted by staff of the CBL, CBL Internal Security, and the Liberian National Police, and was verified by the Internal Audit Department;
On May 28, 2019, the Banking Department of the CBL passed the necessary accounting entries to record receipt of the amount;
This constitutes all the process steps encompassing the importation process and these can be attested to the following documentations:
Two reports from the Liberian National Police attesting to having escorted the shipments from the RIA to the CBL, without stops along the road or any other incidents;
Two reports from the CBL Internal Security attesting to having escorted the shipments from the RIA to the CBL, without stops along the road or any other incidents;
Turnover reports from the General Services Department, which cleared the shipments through customs, to the Banking Department of the CBL;
Reports from the Internal Audit Department attesting to both the receipts of the shipment and the value; and
Bank statements from the Banking Department showing the recording of the US$20 million in the CBL’s system.