Liberia: FIU Director-General Picks Bone with CBL

Edwin Harris 

— Says Governor Tarlue is ‘disrespecting’ him

The Director-General of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Edwin Harris, has accused the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), J. Alloysius Tarlue, of his alleged failure to provide support to the FIU. 

Harris, who appeared on the OK FM Morning Rush, on June 14, alleged that Governor Tarlue is “disrespecting” him by “deliberately” refusing to pay CBL’s quota to the fight against money laundering in the country.

“In December 2020, when I came from the Plenary of the Senate, I wrote the CBL Governor, Alloysius Tarlue, on the issue of evaluation but to this date, he has not replied to me. All the Central Banks in West Africa, whenever there is mutual evaluation, they pay fifty percent each of the total cost to their respective financial intelligence units. They also deploy staff but our Central Bank is quiet, doing nothing,” Harris alleged.

The FIU boss disclosed that he is disappointed and surprised that CBL — the regulator of all financial institutions in the country — is paying no heed to efforts aimed at fighting financial crimes.

“I am thinking about what is going on, especially when our Governor has worked in the compliance department of the banking system before. When you have worked in compliance before, you know the consequences that come along with neglecting the upgrading of the system keeping watch on your behalf,” Harris said.

He noted further that the fight against money laundering and corruption, in general, is not only set aside for his office, audit agencies, or the justice system but for every other institution and agency of government.

He cautioned that when there is any shortfall, all major entities of government suffer and CBL has the greatest burden to bear.

“I have written the Governor countless letters but he has not responded. I don’t know whether he read them but my evidence shows that his office signed for each of them. This is not an Edwin Harris process or the FIU alone. It is about the Republic of Liberia. The country may experience consequential effects if these evaluations go wrong,” he warned, adding, “The Governor is disrespecting me.” 

CBL Governor Tarlue could not be reached, as he is said to be out of the country. However, a spokesperson for the CBL reserved comment, noting that the Bank does not wish to deal with the issue publicly. The spokesperson also said that the FIU board, of which the CBL is a statutory member, will meet and deliberate on Harris’s claims.

Harris further pointed out that “if the mutual evaluation report comes out and it is dirty (bad in taste), it will send a bad message against our country because it is always published on major websites, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”

The FIU boss registered that he will not continue complaining and watching from a distance; instead, he will write an official complaint to President George Weah about the CBL Governor failing to perform his duty as provided for by law (not cited).

He said investors take interest in visiting a country and express the willingness to do business based on the good, credible and realistic reports they read from well-recognized and credible websites of international best standing.

“We are only coordinating, but it is not only for us. Most of our activities have slowed down because we have used up our money. I have been filling in the gap, which I ought not to,” Harris claimed.

He hailed the Ministry of Justice, Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, as well as the Executive Mansion, for working along with his office. He further alleged that the Central Bank has taken no interest in posting major reports of the FIU on its website as done by the Executive Mansion.

“In other countries, the Central Bank is even the first among institutions to post on its website. That helps to allay fears of having a no business-friendly environment and financial security concerns,” Harris concluded.