Nearly two (2) years later, the ghosts of the missing L$16 billion banknotes would seemingly not just go away despite best efforts by this government to lay their restive and restless spirits to rest.
As the case drags on, questions are being asked, and rightly so, about the roles of CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe as well as the in-house legal counsel of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL). The named individuals, according to concerns expressed to this newspaper, should also be facing investigation if not criminal charges as is the case currently with former members of the CBL Board of Directors.
It can be recalled that at the onset of this saga, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, who is the official spokesperson of this government, took to the airwaves and told the world that money was printed at several locations including France and Lebanon and that some of that money was missing or remained unaccounted for.
For his part, CDC Chairman Morlu also speaking on the airwaves, emphatically declared that he saw pick-up loads of money being carted away from the CBL’s Waterside bank vaults. As regards the CBL’s in-house counsel, questions are being asked whether this individual had any role in the printing of the money, whether the Board of Governors went against his advice since they are now being criminally charged.
But there is a major complication here. Former Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf has been absolved of criminal liability while Executive Governor, Milton Weeks remains criminally charged. Now whether this situation is due to the action taken by Weeks to file for a separate trial which distanced himself from the rest of his co-accused remains unclear.
This is in view of the fact that others similarly indicted under the same charges have also been absolved of criminal liability. Just what were the compelling reasons, evidence or lack of it thereof that informed GoL’s decision to absolve Deputy Governor Sirleaf and others from further answering to any criminal charges whatsoever, now or in the future?
On reflection, the reluctance or failure of this government to probe allegations made by Mulbah Morlu which were criminal in nature. The public was for instance informed that one shipment of the printed banknotes arrived in Liberia during the tenure of President Sirleaf while the rest came in after President Weah assumed office.
There were at the time widespread public speculations that the wads of newly printed Liberian dollar banknotes officials of the new government were virtually splashing around, were more likely than not coming from the stash of newly printed banknotes stored in the CBL’s vaults.
And this impression was reinforced by the continued circulation on the Liberian market, of mutilated banknotes much to the annoyance of the public.
Further, claims made by Information Minister that the banknotes were printed in different countries, including France, have never since come under scrutiny. Instead, GoL has spun a new narrative claiming that all the banknotes printed in Sweden by Crane were all accounted for. But it does raise strong suspicions that the refusal of former CBL Governor Patray to allow investigators access to its vaults to conduct a physical count of money allegedly stored in those vaults was due to fear of exposure.
Pundits suggest that, had the investigators been granted access, they would have like discovered the banknotes that Minister Nagbe had declared were printed in France, Lebanon and elsewhere. So rather than discovering that banknotes were missing, investigators would have discovered excess banknotes topping the much talked-about missing L$16 billion.
As things appear, officials of this government are going at lengths to create the false impression that blame for the alleged missing L$16 billion is attributed solely to the predecessor government. Far from it, the ostentatious behavior of officials of this government splashing lavish amounts around reinforces the impression that these officials are spending government money.
For example, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah’s Saturday morning ritual of dishing out cash to waiting lines of eager hands simply serves to further ingrain the impression that it is public money being spent. And it is coming from the alleged missing L$16 billion. Officially, the government claims that no money ever went missing.
Yet at the same time, it is subjecting former members of the CBL Board to a criminal trial for the alleged missing money. Clearly there is something amiss here. Just how this government is going to address this glaring contradiction, granted it has intentions to do so, remains very unclear.
Also unclear is just when the restive and restless ghosts of the missing L$16 billion will be laid to rest for good. But can they? There are indeed more questions than answers and the more we find out the less we know.