Over the course of last week, the case of Liberia’s alleged missing billions took a dramatic turn when the Solicitor General of Liberia Sayma Cyrennius Cephus announced at a press conference that charges were being dropped against four of the five men indicted to be tried for the matter. Cllr. Cephus revealed that charges were being dropped against Mr. Charles Sirleaf (Deputy Governor for Operations), Mr. Dorbor Hagba (Director of Banking), Richard Hne Walker (Director for Operations and Payment Systems), and Mr. Joseph Dennis (Deputy Director for Internal Audit). The Solicitor General however stated that charges were not being dropped against the former Executive Governor, Milton Weeks, who he referred to as a “big fish.”
Cllr. Cephus stated that charges were being dropped against Mr. Sirleaf because his actions were considered “an egregious abuse of administrative discretion on the part of Mr. Sirleaf, but it was not criminal.” He added that the charges were being dropped on the other men because they were being placed in a category he referred to as “accessory after the fact.” It can be recalled earlier in the year, the government also dropped charges against Crane Currency which had also been listed as a codefendant in the alleged missing money saga. However, a letter to Crane Currency signed by the Justice Minister of the Republic of Liberia stated: “It is clearly documented that every banknote manufactured by Crane was delivered to and accepted by the Central Bank of Liberia and that Crane was paid the correct amount for the banknotes delivered.”
The government’s senior officials have continued to insist that no money ever went missing from the Central Bank while at the same time indicting, arresting, and sending the co-defendants to the South Beach prison twice.
Liberia’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah who has insisted that no monies were ever missing again stated in an interview with FrontPage Africa TV on Wednesday that: “there was no 16 billion ever missing. It was a concoction and contrivance to derail the administration.”
This is in addition to a statement made by the then Central Bank Governor Nat Patray who stated: “Records from Crane Currency of Sweden, which was contracted to print the money show that Crane delivered 15.5 billion Liberian dollars through Freeport and Roberts International airport between 2016 and 2018. All these monies were logged by the CBL and delivered into the reserved vaults of the CBL.”
With the mountain of indications that no money went missing, and charges against four of the co-defendants being dropped, it remains uncertain why the SG insists on pressing charges against Milton Weeks who is now the only person still indicted and whose hearing is expected to begin on May 25, 2020 after the Supreme Court earlier this week ruled for a new trial to be held. The SG made his intent to pursue charges against Mr. Weeks clear when he stated in his press conference: “today Mr. Sirleaf is a free man. The rest facilitated so we are not coming after them. But for the man up there… Milton Weeks, who took the appeal and threatened to say he will sue the government, we will get him.”
The push by the SG is already raising eyebrows as one observer noted: “it is ridiculous that the government is stating categorically that no money is missing, the government has dropped charges against all other parties, but the SG insists that he must prosecute Mr. Weeks apparently because he took an appeal to the Supreme Court, which is his right under the Constitution. We cannot prosecute people because we are angry that they exercised their constitutional rights. That is a travesty of justice!”
Prior to serving as Central Bank governor, Mr. Weeks had a long career in banking at home and abroad where he served with distinction. These included serving for many years as Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Bankers Association as well as executive positions with Citibank in Zambia, Meridien Bank Zambia and Liberia, Loita Investment Bank in Malawi and as Managing Director for the highly respected South African-owned Stanbic Bank in Nigeria.