Liberia: Crane Currency Reps in Liberia, in Move Likely to Pave Way for Printing of New Money
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
GENEVA – FrontPageAfrica has reliably learnt that a serious conversation is ongoing between the Liberian government and international stakeholders in a bid to establish the facts surrounding the outstanding issues from both the Presidential Investigative Team(PIT) and the Kroll Report over the missing LD16 billion and the US$25 million mop up money, which could pave the way for the printing of new local currencies as the George Weah-led government race against time to solve issues surrounding the dismal economy ahead of the festive holiday season.
FPA has learned that representatives from the Swedish money maker, Crane Currency are currently in Monrovia meeting with officials of government including the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the national legislature in a bid to resolve some unresolved issues.
For confidentiality purposes, the USAID-Sanctioned Kroll redacted commercially sensitive information and removed the names of non-elected or confirmed persons in this report. It is those redacted portions of the report, FPA has learned, has now become a matter of concern for diplomatic stakeholders, who are pressing for all unresolved issues to be addressed prior to the printing of additional money of the same design by the Weah administration.
In February, the USAID-backed Kroll report concluded that it was unable to reconcile the total value of disbursements for the period January 2016 to December 2018 with the total value of legacy and new banknotes disbursed for the corresponding period. Kroll then recommended that a full forensic audit of disbursements from the CBL for the period January 2016 to December 2018 be undertaken, which should include an exercise to verify, that disbursements from the CBL have actually been received in full by the stated recipients, using a risk-based approach.
The investigation came following a request of the Liberian government to the United States Agency for International Development which issued a tender to contract an independent forensic investigation firm to conduct a scoping report engagement to ascertain the basic facts of the alleged disappearance of the new banknotes, and to determine to what extent a broader investigation would be required into the matter to help achieve a clearer understanding of the currency situation.
Kroll Associates, Inc. was engaged by USAID on November 21, 2018 to undertake a scoping report (hereafter the “Independent Review”) into the alleged disappearance of new banknotes. The allegations relate to new banknotes ordered by the CBL from Crane AB, a Swedish banknote manufacturer. Crane AB operates as a subsidiary of a US corporation, Crane and Co. Inc.
Kroll Redacted Portion Concerns Key to New Printing
For confidentiality purposes, Kroll redacted commercially sensitive information and removed the names of non-elected or confirmed persons in its report.
It is those redacted portions of the report, FPA has learned, has now become a matter of concern for diplomatic stakeholders, who are pressing for all unresolved issues to be addressed prior to the printing of additional money of the same design by the Weah administration.
Similarly, a report by PIT concluded that given the many discrepancies as to the total and actual amount of new Liberian banknotes printed, shipped and received by CBL, thereby creating doubts as to the total amount of Liberian dollar banknotes in circulation; as well as, the negative impact said discrepancies are having on the economy, recommended the demonetization of the current Liberian dollar banknotes(new and legacy)
The PIT probe found that the action of Mr. Charles Sirleaf, in the discharging of his duties as Acting Executive Governor of the CBL for endorsing the printing of the $146,250,000.00 Liberian dollar banknotes above the approved amount of 5,000,000 Liberian dollar banknotes and thereby incurring an extra cost.
The PIT probe noted: “Given the scope limitation that the PIT-TC encountered, the investigation recommends that a forensic examination of foreign currency banknotes and foreign currency auction/exchange be conducted.”
Said PIT: “Given the many discrepancies noted in the manner in which the mop-up exercise was conducted in relation to the infusion of the US$25 Million into the Liberian economy; and the scope, time and financial resource limitations of the PIT-TC, the investigation recommends that the TEMT and CBL put a halt to the exercise, and that a forensic investigation of the entire mop-up exercise be conducted without delay.”
PIT said given the many discrepancies observed throughout the investigation in relation to the operations of the CBL in executing the statutory mandate, there is a need to review the Standard Operational Procedures(SOP), banking supervision and internal controls of the CBL to curb the possibility of abuse of the money supply of the nation; as well, enhancing efficiency and productivity. “To further protect the currency banknotes in reserve, CBL should consider discontinuing the use of the Vault at the erstwhile National Housing and Savings Bank.”
A Tricky Point of Contention
Where it becomes tricky is the issue of the printing of new money.
FPA has learned that part of the reason CRANE is in town is to clear its name before proceeding to printing new money.
Crane’s quest to clear its name is key to any conclusion reached at the printing of new money. The government had reportedly contacted Thomas De la Rue firm but were told by the company that it needs more time to come up with specimen. Given the administration is pressed, they could not afford to wait that long and decided to stick with Crane Currency.
It can be recalled that Crane was accused last March of receiving over €700,000 for printing additional Liberian dollar bank notes, over and above what had been contracted. The report said Crane, which was a party to two contracts to print Liberian dollars, “knowingly and willfully conspired with officials of the CBL to defraud the Government of Liberia.”
In the PIT Report, investigators concluded: “The action of CRANE AB SE-14782 Tumba Sweden, a company duly contracted by the Government of Liberia, through the Central Bank of Liberia in two separate contracts to print the total of L$15,000,000,000(fifteen billion Liberian Dollar Banknotes) at the total cost of US$15,331,689.20, knowingly and willfully conspired with officials of the CBL to defraud the GOL, thereby ignoring the terms and conditions of the contract by printing L$18,151,000,000 in complete breach of the contract, and thereby incurring extra cost of US$835,367.72 to the GOL; is in violation of the following provisions of the Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia and should be charged and prosecuted for same.”
Following the revelations in the PIT report, the government announced that it was excluding Crane Currency from all future contracts in Liberia following the missing money scandal as the government announced plans to print new banknotes to replace all notes currently in circulation, which could include those that were allegedly fraudulently printed by Crane Currency.
Crane had previously told FrontPageAfrica that it does not comment about our customers or potential customers.
But in March, the company issued a statement, clarifying that it had not been charged with any crime in Liberia, and at all times Crane has operated in full compliance with the law and rejects completely any allegation of wrongdoing.
The Swedish company denied receiving kickbacks to print more money than it was contracted to print. “That allegation is false and without merit. Crane fulfilled its contractual obligations as set out in two delivery contracts and two subsequent documented agreements between the CBL for Crane to deliver the finished banknotes, and every banknote delivered was properly invoiced and accounted for. Crane was paid in full the correct amount (and no more) as had been agreed with our Liberian customer for these contracted deliveries of banknotes, and there were no excess or improper payments made by the CBL or any other party.”
Crane indicated that since its founding in 1865, it has operated with the highest standards of ethics and integrity. All employees are bound to operate in spirit and in practice with the resolution of our founder R.T. Crane, who stated on July 4, 1855: “I am resolved to conduct my business in the strictest honesty and fairness; to avoid all deception and trickery; to deal fairly with both customers and competitors; to be liberal and just toward employees; and to put my whole mind upon the business.” We are also an independently audited member of the Banknote Ethics Initiative.
Crane challenged the allegations and declared: “In the spirit of openness and transparency, we have also shared all relevant evidence from within Crane with the authors of the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team reports.”
While it is unclear how soon the unresolved issues would be concluded, paving the way for the printing of new banknotes, FPA has not been able to verify whether the new printing would be a new design or the ones already in circulation.
This, multiple diplomatic sources confirmed to FPA this week, could prove to be decisive as international stakeholders insist on having those issues addressed before giving its blessing to the government proceeding with new or additional printing of money.