— Rejects Minister Dean’s framing of the GAC’s report
The leadership of the Council of Patriots (CoP) has accused the Weah-led administration of “shielding and protecting top level cronies” who are reportedly linked to the misuse of US$25 million, which officials say were infused into the economy to mop-up excess liquidity of Liberian dollars.
CoP has also rejected Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean’s framing of the General Audit Commission (GAC) Report, which they consider as a clever attempt to shield and protect top-level cronies of the government.
The CoP in a press statement, signed by Abraham Darius Dillion, one of the group’s spokespersons, said the huge variances and discrepancies cited in the GAC Report, which amount in some instances to over L$900 million or over US$6 million, as well as the many suspicious observations, including the transactions with bogus unregistered foreign exchange bureaus and businesses, can in no way support Minister Dean’s definitive conclusion that “no money was missing.”
Mr. Dillion recalled that after investigating the printing and importation of the L$16 billion banknotes, the government came to a similar conclusion that “no money is missing,” but that there were variances and discrepancies, which occasioned the arrest on the very day the report was released of CBL Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf, and Director of Banking Dorbor Hagba.
He said former CBL Governor Milton Weeks, and two others were later arrested and incarcerated, and the five former and current CBL officials are undergoing prosecution, adding that unfortunately, and in a classic display of double standard, the government has yet to effect any arrest in spite of the fact that the Kroll, PIT, and now the GAC reports on the US$25 million mop-up exercise all point to huge unexplained variances and discrepancies as well as acts of commission and omission, for which officials and individuals should be held liable and culpable.
Mr. Dillion said Minister Dean’s frail reaction to the grievous and criminal acts committed in the design and implementation of the mop-up exercise is a source of serious concern. “It is also troubling and suspicious that the nation would have to wait for days to hear from President Weah on what specifically the government intends to do in response to the three reports on the mop-up exercise when they did not wait for a much-publicized presidential address to take actions on those that allegedly printed and imported the L$16 billion.
Although the GAC did not use the phrase, “money laundering” like the Kroll Associates and the Special Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) reports, according to Dillion, it dug up sufficient evidence to prove that money laundering did indeed marred the “unconventional” mop-up exercise as millions of dollars were exchanged with bogus, and unregistered businesses.”
He said the so-called exercise has the effect of allowing shady individuals and institutions to wash (launder) their shady or criminally acquired Liberian dollar banknotes for clean and crisp US dollar banknotes.
Mr. Dillion said Minister Dean’s framing of the GAC report completely deflected attention from the role and culpability of the Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT) chaired by Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, and Co-chaired by CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray in the flawed designed and implemented the mop-up exercise.
He added, “It is the public knowledge that this unconventional, high-risk direct mop-up exercise that completely by-passed the commercial banks, and entailed the deployment of teams with huge sums of US dollar banknotes to communities was designed, directed, and publicly justified by the TEMT, especially its domineering and talkative Chairman Samuel Tweah.”
“In spite of mounting public concern and fear about the design and conduct of the mop-up exercise, Tweah, as Chair of the TEMT, instead of addressing those concerns by ensuring proper monitoring and oversight, as well as instituting mid-course corrective actions, chose to publicly dismiss those concerns, and allowed a flawed process to proceed non-stop and unaltered for an entire three-month period,” Mr. Dillion said.
He said the CoP is not surprised by the latest actions by the justice minister, “because it is a well-calculated strategy designed by the government to prevent the public from knowing the gory details of what transpired in the mop-up exercise, and protect key government actors from being held to account for the “missing money.”
He added, “In the first place, Ministry Dean excluded the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), two key institutions that were involved in the initial investigation of the mop-up exercise from taking part in the follow-up investigation these institutions had recommended.”
“The exclusion of the LACC and the FIU was done in the full knowledge of the fact that these two institutions have stronger forensic investigation capabilities than the GAC, and such capabilities would have been very helpful in the second investigation. We strongly suspect that one possible motive for the exclusion of the LACC from the second investigation by the Ministry of Justice was to prevent the possibility of the LACC; relying on powers in the LACC Act, from recommending and later prosecuting top-level officials for misdeeds in the mop-up exercise if the Ministry of Justice does not pursue prosecution after three months,” Dillion said.
It can be recalled that on Wednesday, May 23, 2019, Minister Dean held a press conference on the GAC Report of factual findings on the US$$25 million mop-up exercise, stating that the GAC Report proved that “no money was missing” in the mop-up exercise although variances and discrepancies were discovered during the audit.
Minister Dean said the investigative reports by Kroll Associates, the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) and now the GAC point to entrenched weaknesses at the Central Bank, for which he had made appropriate recommendations to President Weah, who is expected to address the nation today, as announced by the Executive Mansion on Monday, May 27, 2019.