Is L$2.6B Actually Missing at CBL?
Claims and counter-claims surrounding the alleged missing L$2.6 billion Liberian dollar banknotes and the authorization of the Board of Governors of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to print additional L$10 billion banknotes may likely, this week, be put to rest by Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay of Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice. This stands from the request by both lawyers of the government and of the former board of governors who rested with the production of both oral and documentary evidence that now set the legal basis for Judge Gbeisay, who is serving in a dual capacity as a judge and a juror, to render his judgment as to whether there was actually missing L$2.6 billion or the CBL board of governors did not get any authorization to print the additional L$10 billion Liberian dollar banknotes.
The former CBL Executive Governor, Milton Weeks, in his testimony said for the first printing of the L$5 billion there was a joint resolution, but for the second printing that is the L$10 billion, there was no joint resolution because of the communication from the Legislature… the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“The CBL act simply states that the Legislature shall give approval and does not specify the joint resolution,” Weeks argued in defense of the communication that gave them the go-ahead to print the L$10 billion. “The communication mentioned clearly that the CBL is hereby requested to replace the legacy banknotes completely with the newly printed banknotes so that there would be a single Liberian dollar currency,” Weeks further argued.
On the issue of the L$2.6 billion, Weeks claimed that initially, they agreed for the money to be transported by ship, but unfortunately, there was a serious problem in Europe that could not allow the bank to transport the printed money through shipping as being budgeted, and so, due to the urgency attached by the government of President Sirleaf, they were compelled to include airline services.
“As a result of the problem created by the shipment, an additional flight was chartered and for which the cost was increased,” Weeks justified the use of the L$2.6 billion. “Not only from the chartered flight, but the original contract has also assumed that all shipments should come by sea, because of the urgency of the situation we changed to airlifting including the one chartered flight, and it is the total cost of the airlifting that increased the price,” Weeks added. “We held numerous discussions and communication based on the positive feedback that we have received, we went ahead in the interest of avoiding an economic shock to sign the contract in anticipation of the approval and we have been ensured was forthcoming,” Weeks added.
In support of Weeks’ argument about the use of an airline, the Supervisor of the Global Logistics Service and National Aviation Services (GLSNAS), Philip N. Yeoh, who testified as a special witness, said SN Brussels Airlines and the Ukrainian airline were the two airlines that transported the L$10 billion banknotes to the country through the Roberts International Airport, which they collected and delivered to the government. Yeoh said every transaction happened in December of 2017. Yeoh said GLSNAS has a contract with the government through the Roberts International Airport to provide cargo handling services. Unfortunately, Yeoh told the court, they were surprised that the special Presidential Investigative Team did not contact his entity on the matter, even before charging the CBL board of governors.
“The documentation concerning the money that came along with the airway bill and the cargo manifest was never presented during the investigation because the Presidential Investigative Team did not visit the SN Brussels Airline concerning the airway bill #08271509200 and the Monrovia office of Brussels for the amount paid per kilo for the wright of the airway bill,” Yeoh testified.
In justification of the arrival of the money at the RIA, Yeoh said, “Upon the arrival of the shipment, the joint security apparatus at the airport, custom and the armed men that escorted the CBL representatives, received the cargo manifest to know the quantity of the shipment.”
Yeoh explained that the cargo manifest and the airway bill are produced by the airline and are used to describe what is onboard the aircraft they are responsible to handle onboard the aircraft. In a counter-argument, the government did not dispute the printing of the is LD$5 billion banknotes by the CBL because by then it was reached as a result of a joint resolution by both Houses of the Legislature, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
However, the government claims that prior to printing the second LD$10 billion banknotes by the CBL, the Board of Governors’ resolution No. BR-06/2017 alleges the Legislature to have the full consent of the total quantity of Liberian dollar in circulation and it (Legislature) had authorized the printing and subsequent issuance of new Liberian dollars banknotes as a replacement for all legacy Liberian dollar banknotes and the introduction of Liberian coins in a lower denomination in the tone of L$13.792 billion.
In its further argument, the government said that the Legislature also acting in pursuant to Article 34 (d) of the 1986 Constitution passed a joint resolution upon receipt of a communication from former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, duly approving and authorizing the CBL to print L$5 billion. The CBL Board of Governors and the Executive Governor, the government claims, “knew that the quantity of legacy banknotes in circulation wasL$13.792 billion for which they inserted in Resolution No.BR-06/2017, the compelling need for the replacement of all legacy Liberian dollar banknotes and the introduction of Liberian coins in the lower denomination; yet they claimed they printed L$10.359 billion when they actually printed under the second contract the amount of L$13,004,750,000 and criminally concealed the variance of L$2.6 billion.”
Further in their argument, the government claims, ”the board of governors authorized the printing of the L$10 billion without obtaining any approval and authorization in the form of a resolution each from the both Houses because they decided to conceal and conspire to unduly usurp and arrogate unto themselves the constitutional power and authority granted the Legislature under Article 34 (d) simply to engage in the illegal disbursement of public money, criminal conspiracy and theft of property and thereby causing the government financial chaos and public unrest in the economy.”
In support of the government’s accusation, former House Speaker, James Emmanuel Nuquay, claimed as a special witness that he has no knowledge about the printing of the L$10 billion Liberian dollar banknotes, and he did not sign any joint resolution to print the money. However, former Speaker Nuquay recollected that he was aware that members of the House of Representatives have raised issues about the militated money on the market after the CBL with the full authorization through the joint resolution had printed and brought into the country L$5 billion to be infused into market to replace the mutilated banknotes .
“The issue raised at the time by the House of Representative was to the effect that after the CBL had printed and brought into the country L$5 billion Liberian dollar banknotes to replace the mutilated once, the bank was still giving customers militated notes contrary to the expectation that money had been printed and brought to be infused into the country’s economy and they do not expect to receive mutilated notes from the bank,” Nuquay testified.
Nuquay also testified that the matter was brought before the plenary of the House of Representatives and they, lawmakers, initiated the process of engagement through plenary to ascertain from the CBL the real issues for which the mutilated notes were still being given to the Liberian people by different banking institutions.
“At the end of the engagement process, the Legislature through the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate wrote a communication to the CBL requesting the bank to do three things,” according to the former speaker’s testimony. “That the government through the CBL should continue to use the Liberia dollars and the United States dollars, until at such time when the country export based has increased significantly, and the CBL was requested to replace the legacy notes (liberty) completely with the newly printed banknotes so that there will be a single type of Liberian currency that facilitates proper control of money and supply,” Nuquay explained, adding, “The CBL was to introduce coins of lower denomination on the Liberian market.”
Nuquay also testified that there is no paragraph or provision in that communication that authorized the CBL to print L$10 billion banknotes. Contrary to Nuquay’s statement that there was no provision within the letter to authorize the CBL to print the L$10 billion, the Secretary of Senate, Nangborlor F. Singbeh claimed that he and the Chief of Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mildred M. Sayon, were instructed by the joint Houses, Senate and Representatives, through communication and they jointly wrote the letter July 19, 2017, and addressed it to the CBL Board of Governors.
Singbeh supported the government’s initial argument that the printing or authorization of the printing of the first L$5 billion banknotes was made as far back as four years, “From my recollection, a resolution was adopted by both Houses authorizing the printing of the banknotes in the amount mentioned. The chief clerk and I obtained instruction from both the House and Senate plenaries to communicate with the CBL their decision as expressed in the last paragraph of our communication,” Singbeh claimed. “If the decision were not that of both Houses, then we would have been reprimanded,” Singbeh defended their communication that led to the CBL not obtaining the joint resolution to print the money.
The controversial paragraph, 2 of the communication reads, “The Central Bank of Liberia is hereby requested to replace the legacy notes (Liberty) completely with newly printed banknotes so that there will be a single type of Liberian currency, thus facilitating proper control of monies supply.”