Gov’t Asks Civil Society and Others to Join Investigation for Missing L$16 Billion

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The government of Liberia has extended an invitation to the National Civil Society Organization and other institutions to form part of the team investigating the whereabouts of the reported L$16 billion of newly printed bank notes.

The organizations include the National Bar Association, the Federation of Liberian Youth, the Association of Certified Public Accountants, the Liberia Council of Churches, and the National Muslim Council.

The press release was issued by the Justice Ministry on Wednesday. It disclosed that the move is in response to calls from the public for greater transparency, independence, and inclusion in the ongoing investigation of the financial scandal.

The government noted that the investigation is for adequately accounting for all flows of monies printed and brought into the country between 2016 and 2018, effectively expanding the scope of the investigation past the time frame of the initial investigation.

“The findings of this investigation will be critical to the formulation and implementation of a credible and robust monetary and microeconomic policy in the years ahead,” the release also added.

The government encouraged citizens to cooperate with the investigation. It promised to update the public as the investigation unfolds.

On September 13, a local daily, the Hot Pepper newspaper, broke the news that agents of the National Security Agency and the Liberia National Police had raided the offices of the Central Bank of Liberia. The paper reported that authorities were searching for information that could lead to L$9 billion (US$58 million) in banknotes that went missing from the Freeport of Monrovia on March 31, 2018 after arriving in a container.

On Tuesday, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe told the Voice of America in an interview that the amount was higher than originally reported. He said the government was trying to account for L$16 billion (US$104 million) in newly printed Liberian dollar banknotes were brought to the country without the knowledge of the president.

Nagbe’s clarification followed mounting pressure from the local media and the public over the apparent disappearance of containers and bags of monies.

Two press releases issued by the government had suggested that the administration of the former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was to blame.

However, FrontPage Africa reported that Sirleaf responded in an interview, accusing the government of trying to damage her legacy. According to the report, Sirleaf noted that an investigation on the missing money had already been conducted by the Central Bank and a press release to announce the results was withheld.

On Tuesday, the government also issued a notice identifying several persons of interest in the investigation of the alleged disappearance of the money and advised the individuals to not leave the country.

Featured photo by Sampson David

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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