Former Executive Governor Milton Weeks a lone defendant, as prosecutors vow to prosecute board of directors
Wasteful Spending on CBL LD$2.6B Trial?
The dropping of charges against four of the five former officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) that include Deputy Governor for Operations, Charles E. Sirleaf, for their individual roles in the alleged missing L$2.6 billion and subsequent plan by state prosecutors to arrest members of the board of directors clearly point to the fact that the government is poised to waste more taxpayers’ money if the case were to be pursued in that direction.
The government took the action on Wednesday, May 13 when they petitioned the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice about its interest to drop charges that include economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation against Sirleaf, Director for Finance, Dorbor M. Hagba, Director for Operation, Richard H. Walker and Deputy Director for Internal Audit, Joseph Dennis, but leaving out former CBL Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks to account for the alleged missing money.
The state prosecutors, in defense of their decision, said those released from answering to the charges were not directly involved with the management of the entity that led to the alleged action by Weeks and probably the board of directors to have without any authorization from the legislature ordered Crane Currency, a currency printing company operating in Sweden, and which is at the centre of the unaccounted L$2.645 billion.
Contrary to the earlier charge that co-defendant Sirleaf, while serving as acting Bank Governor, conspired with other officials of the CBL and the co-defendants, all of who intentionally printed and caused the printing of excess Liberian dollars, said action on the part of the defendants, the writ indicated, has the propensity to cause serious economic instability, undermine the government and cause citizens to rise up against it.
Prosecutors at the time described the alleged act of the defendants as being unlawful, wicked, illegal, criminal and intentional and, as such, a violation of the laws of the Republic of Liberia to include sections 15.80, 15.81 and 10.4 of the Revised Penal Law of Liberia, after spending an unspecified amount of money to bring about the case, which they boastfully said that they have overwhelming pieces of evidence to convict the defendants, despite the defendants challenging the accusation.
Initially, the very government lawyers had dropped similar charges against Crane Currency, after spending an unspecified amount of money for the prosecution of the crane, which did not happen. Instead, those charges were dismissed by then-Judge Nancy Sammy of Criminal Court ‘C’, where the matter is still pending.
Crane had earlier argued that it “fulfilled its contractual obligations as set out in two delivery contracts and two subsequent documented agreements between the CBL for Crane to deliver the finished banknotes, and every banknote delivered was properly invoiced and accounted for. Crane was paid in full the correct amount (and no more) as was being agreed with our Liberian customer for these contracted deliveries of banknotes, and there were no excess or improper payments made by the CBL or any other party.”
The currency printer continued: “Crane challenges these allegations as strenuously as possible. In the spirit of openness and transparency, we have also shared all relevant evidence from within Crane with the authors of the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team reports.”
It can be recalled that the defendants were arrested by Police following the release of two reports by the Presidential Investigations Team (PIT) and the USAID-funded Kroll Associates, respectively, into the scandal involving an alleged missing L$16 billion.
The final report by the PIT and Kroll Associates revealed that there was no missing L$16 billion, but, however, exposed a trail of discrepancies leading to the printing, shipment and delivery of the nation’s legal tender.
According to the investigation by PIT, an excess amount of L$2.645 billion of the total amount printed by the CBL could not be accounted for by the defendants, adding that out of deception, the perpetrators criminally converted said amount to their personal use.
It can be recalled that on Monday, April 1, 2019, the Ministry of Justice said: “To the contrary, Crane Currency and officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), both current and past, were charged and indicted on March 4, 2019, for Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, and Facilitation, in the printing of excess Liberian Dollar Banknotes.
However, in her then ruling, Judge Sammy proved the government’s assertion wrong about the charges against Crane Currency. She said because only the past and current CBL officials that were indicted and the writ of arrest was served on them and not on Crane Currency, as the government over the months had claimed, meaning that Crane Currency has not been brought under the jurisdiction of her court as per her records, Judge Sammy ruled.
Notwithstanding, her ruling said, “Being the Republic of Liberia that indicted Crane Currency has filed a motion to nulle prose quoi (drop) the indictment against Crane Currency in accordance with the law…” Sammy’s ruling is in line with a request to drop the charges against Crane Currency filed before the court on January 10, 2020 by the very government.
Judge Sammy wondered that while it is true that the prosecution has the right to drop a charge against a defendant as provided for by the law, “the question is, can this court grant a motion in favor of Crane Currency that has not been under the jurisdiction of her court?”
Notwithstanding, Sammy said, since the government requested the court to drop charges against Crane Currency on ground that it does not intend to prosecute the company, the motion, she ruled, “is hereby granted with prejudice to the state, meaning, all charges levied against Crane Currency are hereby ordered dropped, and the indictment also ordered dismissed.”
She warned that government is barred from bringing these charges against Crane Currency.
It is the case that state prosecutors are now seeking additional money to have charges transferred to the members of the board of directors and Weeks, instead of those that were in a direct position to the printing of the money.