L$16bn. Resurrects

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time that is why truth crushed to the ground shall surely and truly rise again; and (justice will be the measuring line for the foundation, and honesty will be its plumb line, Isaiah 28:17)

Just when the controversial alleged missing L$16bn saga was gradually fading away, the JOY FM Radio station in Monrovia on Wednesday, October 7, 2020 on it popular and most listened to phone-talk-show unearthed a startling revelation regarding report alleging that the man who escorted the container with the money therein to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) did escape has a dramatic posture in keeping with the investigation conducted by that radio station.

While it has also been reported that no L$16bn. was ever missing, during the phone-in-talk-show, the station read a communication and some salient document revealing that the man who allegedly went missing while escorting the container from the Freeport of Monrovia was a Custom Broker named Lawrence Sirleaf and had never been missing in the first place as being stated.

The station reported that the custom broker Sirleaf was instead taken to  the Millennium Hotel in Monrovia by a high profile government official to lodge there as guest of the Ministry of State.

Interestingly, the station added, believing that the escorting custom broker whose responsibility is to ensure that the container reaches its destination, publicly opened and all contents contained therein are checked as being unloaded from the container and that all items from within are reflected on the tally sheet in his possession, and if any item found in the container and not listed on his (custom broker’s) sheet, that would amount to some problem of insincerity to the government by the owner of such  container.

The station continues that after staying at the hotel for six months with an accumulated bill of over US$65,000, the management of the Millennium Hotel through its Attorney, wrote to the Ministry of State submitting its bill for prompt settlement (payment).

 According to the station management through its legal defense team is demanding payment or the course of legal action will be pursued.

Predicated on that, many callers expressed shock and dismay over the government’s sincerity to its people, and that nobody was ever missing as the public was made to understand, then what prompted the very government to announce that the man (custom broker) escorting the container to the CBL ran away only to be found with a US$65,000 hotel bill hanging around his neck?

Other callers put it straight to the government that it was covering up by hiding the alleged run away man therefor, what was the cardinal reason for the cover-up? Some also pointed out that it is God that made the people to know what was obtaining on the back of no missing L$16bn by  confusing the prime actors to not honor their clandestine  obligation far ahead before the public gets to knowing anything of that nature.

Again, the callers are now wondering if the case of the US$65,000 Millennium Hotel debt owed is the resurrection of another dimension of the most talked about and controversial L$16bn as the money business in the country remains difficult to actually  comprehend where does honesty play a lead role in the process.

Meanwhile, the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), J. Aloysius Tarlue, Jr., has disclosed that the country will still need additional banknotes to be printed to address the mutilated notes on the market.

According to the Daily Observer, the CBL Executive Governor’s suggestion for the printing of a yet unspecified amount of banknotes comes just few months after L$4 billion in L$500 denominations was printed.

In his plea, Governor Tarlue said, “unless additional Liberian dollar banknotes are printed, the country will continue to experience a rapid increase in the mutilation of existing banknotes.”

It can be recalled that in September 2018, local media reported that shipping containers filled with newly printed Liberian dollars from Swedish banknote manufacturer Crane AB disappeared from Liberia’s entry ports between 2016 and 2017.

The Central Bank of Liberia denied the allegations and stated that the money was stored in vaults across the city.

Just a few months before the revelation, President George Weah, who came into office in January 2018, announced that the central bank would pump $25m into the economy to replace older Liberian dollars.

The Liberian dollar has been losing value – or depreciating – since July 2017. This has led to higher import costs and inflation, which means that everyday goods have become much more expensive for the average person in the country.

The president’s “mop-up” exercise, as it was dubbed, took place between July and October last year. It intended to reduce the amount of local currency in the economy to slow further depreciation.

But there were a number of concerns around the exercise and unanswered questions about the shipments of cash into Liberia. Two reports were commissioned to examine the details. The government’s Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) completed one.  While Risk Advisory Firm Kroll, took care of the other.

Both found major flaws in how government policy was implemented in each case, and neither the PIT nor Kroll were able to account for all of the newly printed Liberian dollars or the additional US dollars in the country

A Monrovia court ordered former deputy governor Charles Sirleaf, ex-bank head Milton Weeks and bank official Dorbor Hagba to be held in jail pending the scheduling of their trial.
Another two suspects still being sought face similar charges over their handling of billions of Liberian dollars.
The crowded court heard that between 2016 and 2018, Sirleaf “purposely with wicked and criminal intent connived and conspired with other officials” to print local currency but also pocket some of the proceeds.
Judge Kennedy Peabody said Sirleaf would be charged “with the commission of economic sabotage, misuse of public money, property or records and theft and or illegal disbursement and expenditure of public money and criminal conspiracy.”
“Charles Sirleaf and his accomplices Milton Weeks and Dorbor Hagba, including defendants Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis who are at-large, are criminally liable (for) … Liberian dollar banknotes brought into the country which cannot be accounted for by them.”
President George Weah separately expressed thanks to the country’s partners, especially the United States, for helping with the investigation.
“I wanted the Liberian people (to) know that we are transparent,” the president said in a statement.
“Whatever happens from (the) findings, we will follow it because in the process of getting information, a lot of things do come out,” he added.
“When everything is done, I hope Liberia will be in peace and people will not take to the streets again.”
Weah announced the probe in September into the handling of some 16 billion Liberian dollars ($99 million, 87 millions euros) destined for the central bank.
What exactly happened to the money remains unclear, with a report by the US investigative agency Kroll Associates saying the money arrived at the central bank but that there were failings at each stage of the process.
One of the world’s poorest countries, Liberia has been struggling with rampant corruption which Weah vowed to combat when he took office a year ago.

-Writes GDJ

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