Monrovia, Liberia- The Liberian missing banknotes saga keeps taking astonishing twists and turns, as explanations by officials contradicts actual evidence and documentations available. These contradictions seem to raise more suspicion among Liberians, especially with high ranking former and current officials of government giving conflicting accounts of the scenario.
On September 17, 2018, Justice Minister Musa Dean issued a Press Release stating the arrival of monies into the country without the current government knowledge. The Press release also informed the public that a special task-force was set up to investigate the situation. Minister Dean’s press release was followed by a government circular on September 18, 2018, and signed by Information Minister, Eugene Nagbe, identifying persons of interest in the ongoing investigation. On the same day, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued a statement warning the current government against attempts to impugn her character and legacy, and advised her son Charles Sirleaf, Deputy Central Bank Governor to resign after investigations are concluded.
After he issued the circular, Minister Nagbe granted interviews to both the Voice of America and the Liberia Broadcasting System , creating clarity on the reported missing banknotes, stating that instead of L$9 billion, the reported missing amount was L$16 billion.
On Thursday, September 20, 2018, Finance Minister Samuel Tweh called on a local radio talk show and informed the public to disregard all information put out by the Justice and Information Ministers, stating that he had absolute authority over the issue. The regular government press briefing which is held every Thursday was unceremoniously called off. Late Thursday evening, former Central Bank Governor, Milton Weeks issued a statement expressing denial of any missing banknote, stating that all banknotes brought into the country during his tenure as Central Bank Governor was accounted for.
Early Friday, September 21, 2018, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf again spoke out, this time granting an interview to the BBC’s Focus on Africa Program. During the interview, Madam Sirleaf supported her former Bank Governor assertion that she is not aware of any missing money and expressed serious anger at the government for the manner in which they have been handling the matter, as well as sitting on a Central Bank internal report.
Late Friday, the purported internal memo from the Central Bank was released, but only accounts for L$374,750,000.
According to the African Journal Magazine, documentation in their possession show documents for Currency Shipment received by the CBL on Oct 17, 2017, November 17, 2017, December 17, 2017,January 18, 2018, February 18, 2018 and April 18, 2018. Total boxes of currency consignment in various denominations received during this period was 3,276 for a total amount of $10,359,750,000 (Ten Billion Three Hundred and Fifty Nine Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty Liberian Dollars).
President Weah’s Administration had been in office for nearly three months after the money is reported to have arrived.
The African Journal states, that in a letter signed by one “Peter” and addressed to one “Miatta”, a reference to a Ms. Miatta Oberly-Kuteh, a bank executive, he tried to explain the confusion of the packing list of the consignment of money and admitted to over production of currency. “…what happened is that the factory needed to order extra boxes to accommodate the over production.Tailor made boxes would take some time to arrive so the factory made a number of its own boxes, which are not the same dimensions as those used for the bulk production…” the letter said.
“It is unclear what “Peter” meant by over production or how much in over production of minted currency was made and who authorized it”, the African Journal wrote.
The African Journal also writes:
On March 29, 2018, another memorandum address to the Deputy Bank Governor for Operations Charles E. Sirleaf from the Deputy Director of Banking and PS Ms Miatta Oberly-Kuteh advised of the transfer of 8 pallets of printed materials from the National Port Authority (NPA) to the Central Bank reserve vault at the National Housing and Savings Bank in the commercial district of Waterside. The transfer was expected on March 30, 2018 and the memo also requested approval of a budget to facilitate the transfer.
On Thursday, former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks, in a press interview, disclosed that the total local currency minted was $15 Billion (Fifteen Billion) Liberian dollars which arrived in the country between October 2017 and April, 2018 in various denominations.