Liberia: “Missing Billions” Report In; Govt Allegedly Planning Against Opposition, Media

Monrovia, Liberia January 15, 2018: The Task Force constituted to investigate the missing $16 billion dollars in the West African country of Liberia has reportedly presented its findings to President George M. Weah in the capital Monrovia, according to an unimpeachable source.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

The forensic report is expected to confirm that the printed Liberia dollars did come into the country and that over $2 billion Liberia dollars (LD) are actually unaccounted for and may be part of monies which came into the country after the inauguration of the Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led government in January, 2018.

Shortly following disclosure of the “missing billion” scandal by an independent Liberian investigative journalist Philibert Browne of the local Hot Pepper newspaper last year, the Weah Administration instituted a task force to investigate the matter. The U.S. Government through USAID seconded forensic auditors to assist with the investigation.

Last September, shortly before departure to address the UN General Assembly in New York, President Weah addressed citizens on the “missing billions”.

“I asked all citizens to be patient and those involved in the investigation to be corporative. I am confident that in the end, we will come to a logical conclusion into the circumstances surrounding this money and if anyone is caught in any financial malfeasance they will be held accountable to the full extent. I can assure you, my fellow Liberians, proper accountability of the money in question is vital to my government’s ability to improve your lives. As we accelerate our investigation to which I have invited international partners to join in advising us to ensure transparency. Let’s us remain calm and have faith in the process. I believe that the mandate I received from you is a mandate to end corruption in public service and I remain fully committed to this task. I promise to deliver on this mandate and I will not let you down, the President said at the time.”

It can be recalled that on Monday September 17, 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Monrovia issued a press statement in which it officially confirmed that an investigation of the matter was underway by multi-sector government agencies including the Liberia National Police, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) .

liberia justice minister counselor frank musa dean
Liberia Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean

“…Initial findings indicate that the containers and bags of money allegedly arrived between November, 2017, prior to the inauguration of the current Government and on August, 2018. Evidence available to the investigative team has established that the current administration was not informed about the containers and bags of money and bags of money into the country…” the Justice Ministry press statement said at the time.

Information Minister Eugene L. Nagbe around the same time and at the height of the scandal disclosure said, “We can confirm that the money was brought through the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport and for now we can confirm that the amount was L$16 billion. An estimate of a little over US$60 million as far as we are concerned from ongoing investigation as of today, and it came in the two ports of entry,”

But the country’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah quickly dismissed the Information Minister’s statement in a radio interview on Thursday, September 20, saying, the  “missing billions” had been infused into the Liberian economy.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  later dismissed any responsibility for the scandal saying it was a ploy to impugn her reputation.

liberian protesters - file photo
“Missing Billions” Protesters In Liberia

Our source in the Executive Mansion who is familiar with the report but not authorized to discuss it due to its sensitivity, told the West African Journal Magazine Tuesday that $1 billion LD is also unaccounted for from the  about $5 billion LD printed by the former Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration. About $10 million LD of $15 million LD which were allegedly infused to stabilize the Liberian economy is reported to be unaccounted for – no record, the source said, adding that the plan is to water down the report before release to say that “although the money is not accounted  it is not missing”.

Government spokespersons and controlled media have been instructed to push the narrative that “no money is missing”.

Opposition and Media

Allegedly, part of the Weah Administration plan to blunt the fall-out from the damaging report is a massive public relations onslaught to “kill public anger”, the source said. Protesters in September, outraged by the alleged “missing billions”, staged a peaceful march to demand accountability and return of the money.

free press
Free [Press In Liberia
Manifestation of the alleged plan also include discussions among CDC strategists and government functionaries to target vocal talk shows and hosts and to have critical content controlled through new restrictive media regulations, the co-opting of some “Government friendly” media personnel and financial strangulation of others, the source disclosed, adding that, “some businesses and government agencies are being called in and threatened and instructed to re-channel business to more government-friendly media houses. Some critical talk show hosts will be taken off air”.

A Liberia media executive and publisher of the of the independent Inquirer Newspaper Mr. Phillip Wesseh disclosed over the weekend that there was an attempt to “destroy” his paper with the sudden exit of about five employees who are planning to launch the “Independent Inquirer” newspaper. Accusing fingers have been pointed at the Government in the scheme to financially destroy the paper which was launched in October, 1990 during the height of the country’s civil war.

Wesseh has told the independent Daily Observer newspaper that the Inquirer will continue publication and is not worried about the exodus of some employees.

But publishers of the new Independent Inquirer newspaper have rejected claims that they were being used by the government operative to sabotage their former paper.

“Very harsh language and vocal language will be used including intimidation, family pressure and inducements against opposition operatives, if necessary, ” the source disclosed, saying that the aim is to harm their reputation and demoralize their partisans.

rep acarous gray and deputy minister samorra wolokollie
Rep Acarous Gray and Deputy Minister Samora Wolokollie

Over the weekend, a senior government official and Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) Samora Wolokollie and long-time CDC operative and Montserrado Electoral District #8 Representative Moses Acarous Gray  verbally attacked the  opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) leader Alexander Cummings, calling him a “bare-faced” liar”.

The two officials of the CDC government who appeared on the state-runned national broadcaster took issue with stinging criticisms leveled at President George M. Weah by Cummings who warned in an interview recently that “looting and stealing” in the Government has got to stop. Cummings’ statement drew favorable reviews from several quarters in and out of Liberia including social media.

The source alleged that government surrogates Ansu Konneh and Boikai Fofanna are the lead persons designated to “control the discourse on social media” in favor of the CDC led government.

West African Journal Magazine attempted but was unsuccessful in obtaining a response from the state house the Executive Mansion in Monrovia since no one was authorized to discuss the matter.

Liberians are anxiously awaiting the release of the contents of the report. There is no indication of a release date by the Government.

By Staff Reporter and Correspondents in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia: “Missing Billions” of Liberian Dollars Not In Central Bank System

Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean

Following the disclosure of the missing $16 billion Liberian dollars in Liberia, the West African Journal’s review of the Financial and Economic Bulletins of Liberia’s Central Bank (CBL) which was issued for the periods January-March and April – June 2018 shows relative economic “growth” based on published financial data but still no indication of the missing amount making it into the bank’s financial reports.

January – March 2018

The Liberian dollar in circulation at end-March, 2018 grew by 4.9 percent to L$16,692.6 million, from L$15,919.7 million, the level recorded at end-December, 2017. No record of the deposit of the missing $16 billion LD.

In the first quarter of 2018, the Central Bank, in its economic report said, “…currency in banks only accounted for 6.0 percent of total currency in circulation, which implies that about 94 percent of currency in circulation is outside the banks..”.

April – June, 2018

For the period of April – June , 2018, growth reported was 11.1 percent but no record of the inflow of the missing $16 billion LD ($4 million USD) which resulted in a budget shortfall as reported by the country’s cental banking authority.

In its report on the circulation of Liberian dollar for the quarter under review, the Central Bank notes in section 3.6 Liberian Dollar in Circulation that, “The Liberian dollar in circulation at end-June 2018 expanded by 3.3 percent to L$17,236.1 million, from L$16,692.6 million recorded at end-March 2018. The growth in currency in circulation was due to a 68.7 percent rise in currency in banks which offset the 0.9 percent decline in currency outside banks both driven by the demand for cash to facilitate economic transactions. When matched against the same period a year ago, the Liberian dollar in circulation expanded by 38.8 percent on account of a 27.3 percent and 39.0 percent increases in both currency in banks and currency outside banks respectively…”

“3.7 Money Supply (M1)

Narrow money supply (M1) at end-June 2018 grew by 11.1 percent to L$63,449.0 million compared to L$57,109.4 million recorded for the preceding quarter. The rise in M1 was prompted by a 15.7 percent growth in demand deposit which outweighed the 0.9 percent

decline in currency outside the banking system. Compared with the corresponding period a year ago, narrow money supply grew by 37.2 percent, triggered by 39.0 percent and 36.6 percent expansions in both currency outside the banking system and demand deposits, respectively…”

Central Bank of Liberia Seal

This means that there was no upward mobility of infusion of the missing billions in Liberian dollars which began arriving in the country since November of 2017, in the prior Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration and into the Weah Administration This is evident in a statement from the CBL Bulletin which states that, “…The financial account of the country’s balance of payments resulted in liabilities of US$31.5 million in the quarter under review as compared to net asset position of US$66.9 million in the preceding quarter. The decline in net financial account was driven mainly by a sharp fall in transactions in other investment (net) resulting from a dip mainly in currency and deposits…”

The CBL disclosed that “… the banking system recorded total net income after tax of L$911.1 million at end-June 2018, increasing by 79.2 percent and 4.8 percent when compared with the values recorded in the first quarter of 2018 and the second quarter of 2017, respectively…” This disclosure in no way indicates that the net income stated was related to any infusion of LD into the banking system for the quarter. This was income recorded after taxes. So, even with an increase in, the CBL analysis showed that, “The system recorded total assets of L$132.05 billion at end-June 2018, representing an increase of 16.2 percent compared with the L$113.5 billion recorded at end-March 2018 and also a significant increase of 42.9 percent compared with the corresponding quarter in the previous year. The increase in assets can be attributed to increases in both capital and deposits in the banking system..”, the CBL’s Economic Bulletin states.

Liberian $100 Bank Note

The central question now is why were the amounts of the initial minted bank notes received in the West African country for a total of $16 billion Liberian dollars not reflected in the CBL’s financial system for the first 2 quarters of 2018 ending in June?

The government’s investigation of several individuals associated with “missing money saga” is focused mainly on the whereabouts of container of bank notes which began arriving between November, 2017 and as late as September 18, 2018.

Meantime, the Government of Liberia is requesting international assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), the US Treasury Department and the International Monetary in its ongoing investigation.

The Government is also requesting the Liberia Muslim Council, the Liberia Council of Churches, the National Bar Association, Federation of Liberian Youths and Civil Society Organizations to be a part of the Investigation, a Press Statement from the country’s Ministry of Justice said on Wednesday in the capital Monrovia.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal

Liberia: Former Central Bank Governor To Visit With Police To Assist With Investigation Into Missing “Container of Money”

Seal of Liberia

As investigation continues into the disappearance of a huge container and bags of Liberian bank notes, the government of Liberia has issued a National Security Advisory Circular in which is it ‘advising persons of interest who are required to assist with the ongoing investigation into circumstances surrounding the importation of Liberian Dollar bank notes into Liberia between November, 2017 and August, 2018, not to leave the country…”.

The country’s Ministry of Justice on Monday confirmed an on going investigation following media disclosure of the disappearance of nearly $9 billion dollar Liberia bank notes.

The country’s Ministry of Information, in a press statement issued Tuesday afternoon in Monrovia says the Government is taking the ongoing investigation seriously because of what it referred to as “national security implications.”

Former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks

Several individuals were named by the Government of Liberia to cooperate with the investigation and include the former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks, Charles Sirleaf, a Deputy Bank governor and son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and a prominent Lebanese businessman George Abi Jaoudi.

Deputy Central Bank Governor Charles Sirleaf

Other named are, Richard Walker, Mariea E.G. Toe, Musulyn R. B. Jackson, Ophelia Nyepan and Oldada Deshield

The Government of Liberia which is coming under heavy pressure for immediate answers from Liberians in and out of the country also named the Prince Bull, J. Barquolleh Gabriel, Theodosia Jreh, Zinnah Davison, Solomon Jaykpah, Kollie Ballah and Andrew Pabai as additional persons of interest asked to cooperation with the investigation.

Press Statement of Government of Liberia

Authorities at land and sea border points of entry and exits have been advised to heed the government’s circular in an attempt to ensure that those named do not leave the West African country. Meantime, the Liberian Information Ministry says the former Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks is expected to visit with investigators at the Liberia National Police on Wednesday morning.

None of the individuals named by the Liberian government are charged with any crime.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine