Facts vs Fiction: GOL Explanation Differs from Documentary Evidence on L$16 billion saga

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South Dakota, USA- Despite efforts by the Government of Liberia to create clarity about the missing L$16 billion, documents emerging from the Central Bank of Liberia and the National Port Authority have proven otherwise, thereby raising eyebrows about what the government is actually trying to hide.

On Monday, Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Musa Dean issued a press release informing the public about the formation of a Special Investigative Task Force 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).

In the press release issued by Cllr. Dean, he said 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.

Press release issued by Justice Minister Musa Dean

In what seemed like a buttress to Cllr. Dean’s press release, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told VOA Daybreak Africa on Tuesday, that the Current government of Liberia does not have anything to do with controversies surrounding the money. He said, the ongoing investigation has initially found out that a batch of banknotes arrived into the country in November 2017 just before President Weah took 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”, Minister Nagbe said.

In the meantime, the Information Minister informed Daybreak Africa interviewer that unlike the amount of L$9 billion that was previously reported, the actual amount that came into the country was L$16 billon. He 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 several documents available to The Liberian Billboard, Ms. Grigsby-Toe, Assistant Director/General Support Section at the Central Bank of Liberia, was seen communicating with the Management of the National Port Authority. On February 8, 2018, Madam Grisby-Toe wrote the NPA Management notifying the port that the bank was taking delivery of the money.

The February 8, 2018 Memo from Madam Grisby-Toe to NPA Management

In the memo, Mrs. Grisby-Toe wrote: “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 8, 2018.”

The individuals, who were also identified as staff of the CBL listed were:  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.

Madam Mariea Gribsy-Toe, Assistant Director, General Support Section of the CBL wrote another memo on March 31, 2018, requesting the management of the NPA to permit 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.

The March 31, 2018 Memo written by Madam Grisby-Toe

Another report, evident by documents indicates that on November 22, 2017, a container containing and transported by Safmarine cash docked at the Freeport of Monrovia, but was not unloaded until February 2018; when the current government has already taken over.

Documents relating to the container was processed on December 13, 2017 and the  it contained the 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).

An additional 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 was one of the first appointees of the current regime, was Minister by then.

Despite evidence proving that the money was received by the current government, they seem to want to shift the blame of the controversy on the past government.  “I can assure you that at some point during this investigation, we will call people in, people will be arrested and indicted”, Minister Nagbe said.

In addition to his statement, Minister Nagbe on Tuesday issued a press release which indicated, “Persons of Interest” to assist with the ongoing investigation. Those included in the circular are: 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.

Circular from the Ministry of Information with names of “Persons of Interest”

Stating that the matter is serious and is one of national security concern, Minister Nagbe said, 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.

Meanwhile, former President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has broken her silence on the matter. In a statement issued late Tuesday, the former Liberian President said, “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.”

The missing L$16 billion has been met with vicious public outcry. Liberians from all walks of life have flooded Social Media as well as local media to voice their dissatisfaction about the missing amount. Many of them who spoke to The Liberian Billboard said, the government needs to act fast and hold those responsible accountable, or else, it would greatly taint its image. They said, this is not what Liberians signed up for when electing the CDC-led government and that the sum of money missing has the propensity of creating citizens uprising like the Arab Spring.