She ordered the printing of new Liberian dollar banknotes to shore up an economy which had, without question faltered under her watch. In the stellar case of the fraudulent ExxonMobil agreement negotiated under her watch, she scowled at Justice Minister Christiana Tah (by Tah’s own accounts) for daring to suggest that negotiations were being conducted outside the ambit of the 2001 New Petroleum law.
Investigators (names withheld) have told this newspaper that she must have been aware that excess banknotes were being printed and that daily monetary transactions at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) were deliberately not being recorded. She must have also been aware of all what was happening at the CBL especially concerning the printing of new banknotes.
There appears to be no iota of doubt in the public that she was being briefed on a regular and daily basis by her son on activities at the CBL. The record shows that the first batch of banknotes were brought into the country in the run-up to the October 2017 elections. It was during this period, the L$500 bill made its first-time appearance.
Public suspicion, high at the time that she was funneling some of that money to the opposition Congress/Coalition for Democratic Change were strenuously denied. But with thousands of Liberian senior and junior high school students flocking to the CDC headquarters in anticipation of having their WASSCE fees paid as promised by leading contender George Weah, the suspicion heightened amid widespread fears of the country going bust.
But in her farewell speech, she spared little words touting her success at securing debt relief and turning things around for the better in Liberia, stating that she was leaving behind US$150 million in the coffers. That claim was however later contested by President Weah following his assumption of office when news of missing Liberian dollar banknotes began to filter to the public.
Not too long afterwards news reports, quoting Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, that L$16 billion Liberian dollar banknotes had gone missing, prompted a “Bring Back Our Money” mass public demonstration. Later, CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu, in response to pubic disquiet, alleged that he had personally seen pick-up trucks loaded with boxes containing Liberian dollar banknotes being driven out of the CBL Waterside compound where some of its vaults are located.
Before then, Legislators had queried and raised questions about the sense in printing new Liberian dollar banknotes when her tenure was about to expire. Those concerns were raised by some Legislators, but their concerns went unheeded and CBL officials went full steam ahead to print new currency banknotes and introduced them into circulation.
When Information Minister Nagbe finally did announce that L$16 billion worth of
banknotes had gone missing, the puzzle began to unravel; and when the lid was finally blown off the pot, what was revealed was a rotten and stinking morass of corruption. Now out of office, virtually powerless, vulnerable, and feeling endangered and embarrassed by the criminal indictment of her son, former President Sirleaf appears to have left no stone unturned to have her son evade criminal accountability.
This can probably explain the various twists and turns in the trial of those accused of masterminding and executing the printing. Her son has been let off the hook. Some have since lost their lives under questionable circumstances which remain unresolved, while others have now been unfairly left to bear the shame and disgrace — carry the stink. Such developments have left the public with the impression that past and current officials simply “ate” the money and were doing every thing including the use of foul means to cover up.
This impression has been reinforced by the spate of private construction projects carried out by President Weah shortly after assuming office. According to informed sources at the CBL, former CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray’s refusal to allow investigators access to its bank vaults to do physical counting of cash, was driven by fears of exposing President Weah to public ridicule. And those CBL officials suspected of non-cooperation, according to a CBL source (name withheld), now in involuntary exile in the US, were simply eliminated.
However, many in the public feel President Sirleaf should also be on trial because she bears ultimate responsibility for the actions of her appointees. From all appearances, this trial is but a gross miscarriage of justice and is further impugning the already tattered image of the Liberian judiciary.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, King Claudius killed his own brother Hamlet, married his wife, Gertrude and usurped the throne; Gertrude, rather than being sad, is instead happy with the marriage. Horatio, a member of the Palace guard, upon seeing the ghost of the dead king Hamlet stalking the Palace grounds one night, asks Marcellus, an official of the Palace guard, what was the meaning of it.
Marcellus, in reply, quips: “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark”, meaning the situation in Denmark was facing a rotten political situation akin to that of a fish which rots from head to tail and was explosive. It is used nowadays to describe political situations characterized by corruption, inappropriate action, unethical behavior and licentiousness.
The case of the missing 16bn Liberian dollar banknotes and the twists and turns in the ongoing criminal trial of those accused is a case of cover-up of a trail of outright theft of millions of dollars of the Liberian people’s money. And those CBL officials suspected of non-cooperation, according to a CBL source (name withheld) now in involuntary exile in the US were simply eliminated.
Corruption is snuffing out the life of Liberia and, if left unchecked, this nation shall more likely than not, pay a very heavy price to rid itself of this evil scourge. Liberians do not deserve such and this newspaper reiterates the call for full, not partial accountability in the case of the missing billions. What should be a fair, just and transparent trial of accused individuals has instead become a charade — a trial of scapegoats.
Something must indeed be very rotten in the State of Denmark!