Missing Billions Investigation in LIMBO?
The state of the investigation into the alleged missing billions has not been revealed to the public over the period since the investigative team was set up.
Since the news broke over the missing 16billion in mid-September 2018, Pres. George Weah constituted an investigative committee including the Ministry of Justice, National Security Agency, Forensic Investigation Unit among others.
Later, faith-based, religious, Civil Society organizations and student groups were named to form part of the investigative team.
Many thought the process would bring relief to the controversies surrounding the missing money and enable the country regained its trustworthy status both locally and internationally.
To date, the investigation team is yet to state to the public plans on moving forward with the process and its stance on the matter which is travails to the Liberian people.
Recently the Central of Liberia held a press conference stating that there is absolutely no money missing from the country as it is being alleged and investigated by the government.
CBL governor Nathaniel Patray indicated that the Central Bank had concluded its internal assessment of money printed and brought into the country between the period of 2016-2018 and that the bank has no record of any monies printed under its authority have not yet been delivered into its reserve vaults.
However, Governor Partay clarified that contrary to Min. Eugene Nagbe’s assertion that monies were printed in several countries, records from Crane (the Swedish firm contracted to print the money) shows that the company delivered L$15.5 billion through the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport during the period.
He indicated that the travel ban placed on staff of the bank would interrupt the smooth operations of the bank noting that he requests the removal of travel restriction and confirmed full cooperation
“I confirmed that all employees of the bank are committed to cooperating fully with the investigation and will continue to make themselves available whenever they are called upon”, Governor Patray said.
Although the CBL had concluded its internal investigation Governor Patray in a press conference stated that Bank and all its staff members still support the ongoing investigation.
“The CBL welcomes the establishment and expansion of the Special Investigative Team constituted by President Weah, which includes Civil Society Groups, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Financial Intelligence Unit, Joint Security Team, the Association of Certified Public Accountants Among others”.
The CBL governor made the statement void of question from journalists’ in a press conference barely few days after Pres. Weah arrived in the country following the UN General Assembly in New York with a similar assertion.
Though Pres. Weah had earlier told Liberians before his departure to the UNGA to remain patient while his investigative team which was constituted carry on their work in uncovering the true behind the missing billions; the President told scores of Liberians during a thanksgiving service held for him at the Dominion Christian Church, that there were no missing money as it is being speculated and journalists who reported that billions were missing should be included to aid the investigation.
A local group Concern Citizens United to Bring Back Our Money (COCUBOMB) has said the president’s comment shows his unwillingness to end the circle of corruption and impunity in the country.
President Weah recently promised at the UNGA to end impunity and fight corruption in ensuring that justice prevails and respect for the rule of law.
The Group’s chair and Co-Chair Martin Kollie and Emmanuel Gonquoi believe that the president’s action has the ability to undermine the credibility of the investigation and could further lead to economy and security threats.
“A handful of economic scavengers cannot continue to undermine the collective interests and destiny of our people and we will continue to protect the ultimate interest of the massive”, they noted.
COCUBOMB heads argument surrounding the missing billions points to some of the country’s problems of a structured health care delivery system and quality education for all, especially in rural Liberia.
However, the group also stated that the CBL reaction to the missing billions is also an attempt to undermine and divert the Liberian people mind from the money on to believing what they termed as falsehood.
“The CBL reaction is a pre-calculated and prearranged attempt to undermine this ongoing investigation; it is overly irrational and illogical for anyone to echo that no money is missing and we reiterate an international independent forensic investigation” COCUBOMB chair Martin Kollie noted.
Some Faith-Based institutions named in the investigative team have declined being informed formally of their role in the investigation process.
The National Muslim Council of Liberia and the Council of Churches, among others, have denied ever being officially informed of their roles in the ongoing investigation team of the alleged missing billions.
The head of the Muslim Council, Sheik Omaru Kamara told The Monrovia Times that at no time did the council received a letter from the Ministry of Justice on their participation in the process
“We only heard it on the news and saw it in the newspaper that we are to form part of the investigation team on this missing money but we have not received any letter to that effect”, he said.
Sheik Kamara indicated though their roles and responsibilities have not been officially communicated he believes that the Central Bank of Liberia press statement has summarized the entire investigation.
“If the CBL says no money is missing then who the investigation team is investigating and what they are finding out, so until then we will wait to see the outcome of the investigation”, he stated.
In a release, the Council of Churches expounded reports that it was never officially written over its role in the ongoing investigation by the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Justice; which it has decided to withdraw from being a member of the Presidential investigative team and remain neutral to ensure the stability of the country. The group took the decision on September 23, 2018 in Monrovia upon seeing their name in a MOJ press release.
The LCC Secretary General Rev. Christopher Toe said upon seeing the MOJ release carrying the institution name as a member of the investigative team without prior communication, the group engaged the ministry to ascertain information surrounding it,
“Instead of being asked to investigate the missing billions we were asked to specifically form part of an investigation to examine the circumstances surrounding the printing of Liberian banknotes and the importation of both US and LD banknotes by the CBL into the country”, Rev. Toe stated.
Though Rev. Toe thanked Pres. Weah for constituting the investigative team but urged that a regular update on the ongoing investigation be given to the public in an effort to keep the public abreast with information and the status of the investigation.
Both the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC) and the Concern Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back (COCUBOMB) have held series of consultations on seeking international attention to the alleged missing billions.
Recently in one of their meetings, the LCC through its president Bishop Kortu Brown promised to intensify its engagement with international partners to ensure full accountability and justice for this missing money.
However, the LCC pleaded with COCUBOMB to exercise restraint in following up the matter. In response, COCUBOMB demanded that functionaries of the government refrain from making statements that would prejudice or prejudge the ongoing investigation.
COCUBOMB, however, reemphasized the need to audit the past government and all financial transactions under the Weah-led government so far including the infusion of the US25million into the economy; stating that it remains unbending until alleged money is accounted for.