Gov’t Files Criminal Charges against Crane Currency

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Though the approval for the printing of the L$5 billion new banknotes was granted by the Legislature on May 17, 2016, that co-defendant Charles Sirleaf (pictured) had earlier executed and entered into a contract with co-defendant Crane on May 6, 2016, eleven days before the Legislature approved the request for the printing.

-Judge Boima Kontoe of Criminal Court ‘C’ authorizes the arrest and imprisonment of Joseph Dennis, CBL ’s deputy director, internal audit.

Lawyers pressing for the conviction of several current and former senior officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), who have been detained in connection to L$2.645 billion unaccounted for, have brought criminal charges against Crane Currency, the company that printed the money.

Crane Currency, the court’s indictment alleged, received US$835,367.72, as kickback after it agreed to print excess Liberia dollar banknotes that amounted to L$2,645,000,000, which was reported to have been infused into the Liberian market. Crane Currency is yet to be served with the indictment and the writ of arrest by prosecutors.

Others who have been already charged and are being held are former executive governor Milton Weeks; deputy governor for operations, Charles E. Sirleaf; Dorbor M. Hagba, director of banking; and Joseph Dennis, deputy director, internal audit; as well as, Richard H. Walker, director of finance. Sirleaf and Hagba were arrested last Thursday, February 28, 2019, while Weeks surrendered himself to the police the following day.

Weeks, Sirleaf and Hagba had since been detained at the Monrovia Central Prison pending the posting of their bond. Their indictments were served on them on the night of Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in their cell at the Monrovia Central Prison.

Dennis and Walker were arrested on the night of Monday, March 4, 2019, at their respective residences by officers of Criminal Court “C’, in Monrovia, where they were served with their indictment. Dennis and Walker were later transferred to the Monrovia Central Prison after they could not afford their bond. The indictment alleged that between April 2016 up to and including August 2018, they conspired with co-defendant Crane Currency to execute two contracts for the printing of Liberian dollar banknotes in the amounts of L$5,000,000,000 and L$10,000,000,000 prior to the approval or authorization by the Legislature.

“The printing of and payment for the excess amount of Liberian dollar banknotes and the concealing of the actual amount of Liberia dollar banknotes in the amount of L$2,645,000,000 was geared toward defrauding the CBL and laundering the said amount,” the court document claimed.

The document further alleged that Hagba, Walker, Dennis and Crane Currency knew and had reason to know that L$2.645 billion banknotes from the two printing contracts executed by the CBL and Crane Currency for printing of L$15 billion banknotes, proceeded to and did provide false information and reports on the actual quantity of Liberian dollar banknotes printed, supplied and delivered by Crane Currency to the CBL.

Before that, the indictment claimed that Sirleaf then serving as acting executive governor, made a request through former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who happened to be his mother, to the Legislature. The intent was to print L$5 billion banknotes to replace the legacy notes and that both Houses, Senate, and Representative, through a joint resolution granted approval to the CBL for the printing.

Later, the document alleged, a contract was executed between the CBL and Crane Currency that was signed by defendant Sirleaf and with co-defendant Crane for the amount of US$5,210,000 for the L$5 billion banknotes to be printed. It said though the approval for the printing of the L$5 billion new banknotes was granted by the Legislature on May 17, 2016, that co-defendant Sirleaf had earlier executed and entered into a contract with co-defendant Crane on May 6, 2016, eleven days before the Legislature approved the request for the printing.

“Article II of the contract signed for the printing of the L$5 billion banknotes provides for the allowance of plus or minus 1.5% fluctuation in the actual quantity of banknotes to be printed due to practicalities of banknotes printing, and that the CBL and Crane Currency would treat such instances by mutual consent through the establishing of side letters,” the indictment said.

But, it added the defendants printed L$5,146,250,000 new Liberian dollar banknotes with L$146,250,000 in excess of the approved amount. That through the contract amount for the printing of the L$5 billion was US$5,210,000, the defendants paid to Crane Currency US$5,611,469.58, an excess of US$401,469.58 when there were no side letters for the extra Liberia dollar banknotes printed as provided for in the contract.

The indictment further explained that in July 2017, the CBL, through Weeks, requested approval from the Legislature to print additional banknotes for the purpose of completely taking the legacy banknotes in circulation from the Liberian market to replace same with the newly printed banknotes in order to have a single type of Liberian dollar currency.

The Legislature, the record alleged, through a communication dated July 19, 2017, under the signatures of Mildred Sayon, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and Nangborlor Singbeh, secretary of the Senate, mandated the CBL to replace the legacy notes completely with the newly printed banknotes so that there would be a single type of Liberian dollar banknote, but that the appropriate details of the volume and denomination of the replacing banknotes be submitted to the Legislature prior to the printing and minting of coins.

That contrary to furnishing the Legislature with the details requested, the document claimed that Weeks and Sirleaf had earlier executed a contract on June 12, 2017, with Crane Currency to print L$10 billion banknotes for the amount of US$10,121,689.20.

The document again alleged that, in the printing of the unauthorized L$10 billion banknotes, Crane Currency printed L$10,359,750,000 banknotes L$359,750,000 in excess of the contract amount and that the defendants paid US$10,555,587.34 to Crane Currency for the amount of Liberia dollar banknotes printed. “US$433,898.14 in excess of the amount to be paid for the printing of the unauthorized L$10 billion banknotes,” the indictment alleged.

Though the total amount of Liberia dollar banknotes contracted by the CBL to be printed by Crane Currency was L$15 billion and “the defendant had reported that only L$15,506,000,000 banknotes, including the excess resulting from the practicalities of banknotes printing, “Packing lists submitted to the investigation revealed that L$18,151 billion banknotes were printed, supplied and received by the CBL by air and sea from July 14, 2016, to February 19, 2018. This leaves a variance of L$2.645 billion, for which defendants have failed to account,” the court record alleged.

7 COMMENTS

  1. The statement (“This leaves a variance of L$2.645 billion, for which defendants have failed to account”) in the indictment is not enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on my reading of financial cases in the United States. During trial, prosecutors will have to provide evidence of the money trail. For example, what did the defendants do with the funds? Was it exchanged for USD? How much money did they wire out of the country if any? Did they use the money to purchase assets like houses, etc.? Prosecutors will have to go through each defendant’s financial record with a fine tooth comb to find out how they used the money because the jury and the public will want to know that information. Simply saying that the defendants can’t account for the L$2.645 billion is not sufficient evidence to convict because defense lawyers will do their best to pick apart the prosecution’s case. What if the money cannot be accounted for because of sloppy accounting and record keeping? Is it possible? The answer is yes. That’s why in criminal cases involving money, prosecutors must show the money trail.

  2. Too many issues. After all, won’t we have been better off using the US dollar until we could fully use our own money?

  3. Going back to the US dollar is the best option. Corruption is allowed to flourish in the Liberian government and no one is ever held accountable. No wonder why no one in government ever declare their assets. A merit based system makes people accountable. what a joke in Liberia,

  4. Phil,
    Although Liberia uses two currencies, traditionally, the USD was in circulation more than the Liberian LD. Also, the two currencies have had an equal value in the past. Because of that arrangement, Liberia’s economy had never been in a tailspin. The USD is one of the reasons why many nations envied our beloved country.. It’s not offensive to do something that will benefit us. Just because Ghana and Nigeria have worthless currencies does not mean it’s okay to be African and do the same thing. Our economy needs stability. A good source of stability comes from the use of currency that’s respected.

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