Correction: Liberia-Missing Millions story
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — In a story Feb. 28 about Liberia’s central bank ordering three times the number of bank notes it was authorized to print, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the U.S. Embassy and the Liberian government commissioned a U.S.-based firm to investigate. Only the U.S. Embassy commissioned the U.S.-based firm. The Liberian government commissioned a separate inquiry.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Report: Liberian bank ordered 3 times money authorized
A new report says Liberia’s central bank illegally ordered three times the number of bank notes it had been authorized to print — and now can’t say what happened to most of them
By JONATHAN PAYE-LAYLEH
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberia’s central bank illegally ordered three times the number of bank notes it had been authorized to print and now can’t properly account for most of them, according to findings of an external investigation released Thursday.
Hours after the report’s release, authorities arrested the son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Charles Sirleaf was a deputy governor at the Central Bank of Liberia during the period when the bank notes were illegally ordered, Justice Minister Musa told The Associated Press. Sirleaf has denied any wrongdoing.
The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia commissioned the probe by the U.S.-based firm Kroll Associates following reports in August that about $100 million worth of Liberian dollars had disappeared — an amount equal to nearly 5 percent of the West African country’s GDP.
Kroll said its investigation found no evidence of a large shipment of cash going missing as had been reported by local media. Instead, the new bank notes all arrived from a Swedish company but the central bank then failed to properly track what was done with them, the report said.
The report said most of the bank notes are believed to have been put into circulation without authorities removing and destroying the old bills they were designed to replace.
“Kroll has identified discrepancies at every stage of the process for controlling the movement of bank notes into and out of the Central Bank of Liberia,” it said.
It said officials at the central bank had not cooperated in explaining who approved the injection of new bank notes without removing the old ones.
Liberians had been eagerly awaiting the report. The government also has done a separate investigation.
Critics of President George Weah’s government have accused his administration of having had a hand in the poor handling of the bank notes for their personal gain, an allegation they have denied. Government officials imposed travel restrictions on 35 people in September, including Charles Sirleaf.
In 2016, Liberia’s House of Representatives passed a resolution approving the printing of 5 billion Liberian dollars to replace old bank notes. However, an additional 10 billion was ordered without proper legislative approval.
“This raised the risk of unintended negative economic effect, including high inflation and the rapid depreciation” of the Liberian dollar, the report said.