The Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) set up by President George Weah says it has the capacity to adequately conduct the investigation, although international partners like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) International Monitory Fund (IMF), and others that were previously invited to participate in the investigation are welcomed.
According to Alex Cuffy, Coordinator of the team which comprises the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), National Security Agency (NSA), Liberia National Police (LNP), and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the team has the capacity, integrity, and tenacity to conduct and conclude the investigation.
“We consider this as a patriotic call to duty and we will deliver on our mandate provided we receive maximum cooperation from the government, the public as well as the needed funds to support the process,” Mr. Cuffy said.
He made these comments at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism’s (MICAT) press briefing which takes place every Thursday and was presided over by Deputy Information Minister for Press and Public Affairs, Eugene Fahngon.
With no sign of international invitees on the team, many Liberians are questioning the credibility and findings of the government’s investigative team.
“This clearly indicates that uncertainties over the alleged missing container of new Liberian banknotes in the billions continue to loom as the government, who is clothed with the authority to unravel the truth, is behind the scandal,” Cuffy said.
Since the “missing” billions saga was unearthed by the media, Liberians have persistently maintained that they do not trust the government to conduct the investigation. There has been a barrage of calls for external support to lend credibility to the process.
On that account, Cuffy said on Thursday that the team will come up with its findings within the course of six weeks, even though he said that it might take a year for the team to properly complete its investigation.
Though Cuffy did not mention the names of those being questioned by the investigative team, he said that from Monday, October 8, the team will send a list bearing the names of people, who are not essential to the investigation, to be removed from the traveling ban, and will also send names of people who should be added to the ban.
In the wake of a recent statement by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) that there was no money missing and that records at the CBL can confirm that the L$15 billion is in its vault, the PIT said that the latest position of the CBL does not in any way undermine the ongoing investigation.
Mr. Cuffy described CBL Executive Governor’s pronouncement that “no money is missing” as a good statement, though many believe that with such a position coming from an entity that stands as the prime suspect in the scandal has prejudiced the case.
“We interpose no objection to the CBL’s statement. It was a good statement. As a matter of fact, if I gave you something to keep and I said the thing you gave me got missing or some of it is missing it is fair for you to come and say something about it and that’s what the CBL has done.
“And they promised to cooperate with this investigation and have been doing it regularly. But the documents are coming in slowly,” the PIT coordinator said.
Cuffy, however, expressed disappointment, saying, “If the CBL was going to come out with this report two weeks ago, we could not have been where we are today with the investigation.”
Accordingly, he warned officials of government and line ministries and agencies to desist from issuing press statements, releases or appearing on talk shows.
Nelson Jallah, a member of the team, said: “Liberia has competent investigators to handle the issue and while it is true that we want our international partners to join us, we are saying that this body is capable of handling the issue.”
Charles L. J. Gibson, Commissioner of the investigative team, noted that the investigation is a financial crime investigation that includes money laundering, which is also not an ordinary criminal investigation.
Gibson said, “We have the expertise and capacity, but we want the public to have patience, trust and wait for the report from the investigation. We are asking the public to work with us, including the media, to give us any information that could help us get to the bottom of this investigation.”