Following months of delay to provide information about two checks processed for co-defendant Varney Sherman, who is at the center of the Global Witness alleged bribery report, the International Bank (IBank) yesterday admitted that they made payment for the two checks, but that the checks are missing.
The bank was mandated by Criminal Court ‘C’ to produce the processed checks for Sherman that are dated June 25, and August 31, 2010, in the amount of US$50,000 and US$200,000.
The checks are allegedly issued in the names of Richard Tolbert, former National Investment Commission (NIC) chairman, and the ruling Unity Party (UP) where defendant Sherman served as the party’s national chairman.
State lawyers argued that the monies were contribution of Sable Mining; a UK based mining company through Sherman, who served as the company’s Liberian lawyer to influence as a guarantee for Sable to have the concession area of Wologizi Mountain in Lofa County without going through the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) bidding processes and procedures.
In his testimony in court yesterday, Edwin Kamanda, IBank’s Head Office Branch Manager, alleged: “We have tirelessly looked into our storage in both our head offices and other branches, but did not find those checks. So the only conclusion we came up with is that these checks are lost; they cannot be recovered. We have worked on holidays, Sundays and weekdays, but these two checks cannot be found.”
Although Mr. Kamanda claimed that it is the bank’s duty to keep checks which had been processed, those ones the court had asked for remained missing.
Asked about the bank’s policy for keeping processed check, Kamanda response was, “We are required to keep documents of processed for customers for five years.”
It was Kamanda’s answer yesterday that prompted the prosecution to ask the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to appear before the court to provide regulation for commercial banks on the storage of processed checks.
That request was granted by Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, who later instructed the court to have CBL appear today to provide clarity about the issue.
Before Judge Gbeisay’s request for CBL to appear, Kamanda had earlier explained that checks processed by customer service are immediately sent to the bank’s audit section for validation and subsequently sent to the records section for safekeeping.
“At the records section, checks are manually filed in envelopes for safekeeping, but before June 1, 2010, processed checks were given back to customers for reconciliation purpose,” the Mr. Kamanda alleged.
Kamanda’s statement was in response to a question prosecution asked about method employed by the bank for the storage of checks and other banking transaction documents.
Records showed that the bank in January of this year, submitted the account of defendant Sherman for the months of June and August 2010. Unfortunately, the checks processed on June 25, and August 31, 2010, were missing among several other checks presented to the court.