— Former CBL Executive Governor testifies
The former Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) on Monday, August 3, told Criminal Court ‘C’, where he and several others are being tried for the alleged unauthorized printing of L$10 billion banknotes, that the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate at the time, Gbarpolu County Senator Armah Zolu Jallah, was written about the printing of the money.
Co-defendant Milton A. Weeks, in his testimony said, the bank in May 2017 wrote the Senate Pro Tempore, providing information that they have confirmed that the L$10 billion banknotes should be printed and they, the CBL, should estimate the cost of the printing of the L$10 billion at US$10.4 million.
“We printed out in our letter that the CBL had not put this amount in our budget of 2017 and suggested that the government might consider including this amount in the upcoming fiscal budget,” Weeks testified.
According to Weeks, they also wrote similar letter in May 2017 to the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emmanuel J. Nuquay, where they provided the same information and also advising him of the budgetary constraints.
However, during his testimony, former Speaker Nuquay denied being aware of the printing of the LD$10 billion.
According to Weeks, before the printing of the money, in 2016, the government, through the Ministry of Finance, informed the CBL that they would be unable to continue to sell the United States Dollars to the CBL due to acute foreign exchange constraints.
“You must realize that all the foreign exchange the CBL was able to utilize came from the foreign exchange that was sold to the bank by the government,” Co-defendant Weeks testified.
It was following that decision, the bank introduced the mandate requiring 25 percent of all remittances transferred through Western Union and MoneyGram to be paid in Liberian currency as a way of generating the foreign exchange for the bank to operate smoothly, Weeks said.
Weeks said, after introducing the 25 percent, by early 2017, the government summoned the CBL on numerous occasions to explain to the Legislature, and it was during some of those discussion that they were advised not to stop using the united states dollars abruptly.
Also, Weeks testified that they arrived at a general concession that most of the mutilated banknotes at that time were legacy notes, and it would make sense to replace all of the legacy notes.
“These various discussions with the legislature culminated in the House of Representatives establishing a specialized committee to work with the CBL on this issue,” Weeks told the court.
Shortly afterward, it resulted in numerous executive sessions at the Legislature on the matter, Weeks said, adding that by early May 2017, the CBL was again summoned to the legislature to find a solution to the matter.
“As executive governor, I requested my deputy governor for economic policy to have the Research Department do an analysis of the quantity of the legacy banknotes that was still in the system and what it would cost to replace those notes,” Weeks said.
After receiving the information, Weeks testified that they engaged the Senate in an executive session and received a favorable response to their suggestion and requested that three things should be done.
“First, that we maintain the United States Dollars for the time being as legal tender; second, that we replace all the legacy notes and thirdly, because there have been agitations on the smaller denominations and that we also should introduce lower domination coins that could be used to make payment,” Weeks said in his testimony.
Weeks further testified that based on the positive response from the Senate, it was then that the bank wrote a letter to the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate in May 2017, concerning the discussion that had been held in the Senate executive session, during which they were requested to advise the Senate on how much Liberian dollars banknotes would be printed to replace all of the legacy notes as well as what it would cost to print that amount.
“Our letter to the president Pro-Tempore in May 2017 provided this information to which we confirmed that L$10 billion should be printed and we estimated the cost at US$10.4 million United States dollars,” Weeks testified.
By June 2017, Weeks said, there were numerous interactions with the Legislature, especially with the specialized committee appointed by the House Plenary to look into the matter.
“There were a number of additional requests received from the Legislature seeking additional information. Some of these communications were sent through the office of the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the information being requested was to assist the lawmakers in reaching the decision that included the amount of currency in circulation and the amount still being held in the vault,” Weeks said.
“All of this information was provided to the Legislature, either in writing or though meetings held with the lawmakers,” he added.
Weeks also testified that the CBL received assurance that its advocacy would be considered.
“Then on July 19, 2017, the CBL received a letter from the Legislature, signed by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate, instructing us that we should maintain the use of the United States Dollars and that we should replace all legacy banknotes and that we should introduced coins,” Weeks further testified.