Liberia is investigating the disappearance of newly printed notes reported to be $L15 billion ($94 million), which was meant for the country’s central bank.
“The investigation is for the purpose of adequately accounting for all flows of monies printed and brought into the country between 2016 and 2018,” the Ministry of Justice said on Wednesday, in a statement signed by Minister Frank Musah Dean.
As a result, the Liberian government has banned 15 citizens, including the son of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Charles, who was a deputy governor and acting executive governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), from leaving the country while investigation is ongoing.
“This government will leave no stone unturned to find those responsible for the act,” news agency AFP quoted Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe to have said.
“It is confirmed by the investigation that the amount of the total money is 15 billion,” he said.
According to him, the money which was printed abroad arrived Liberia through the port of Monrovia between November 2017 and August 2018. Reports in the local media said that the money left the port in March under the protection of security escorts but no one could say where it ended up. The reports led to the investigation launched on 8 August.
However, Milton Weeks, the Central Bank governor at the time the money was said to have arrived says he was not aware of any missing money, but he was cooperating with investigators.
The current Liberian government said it was not informed by the last administration that there was such order. Former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was president when the money was ordered. The current administration led by retired footballer George Weah came into power in January.
“Already we have seen documents to show that people signed for containers of money, people signed for bags of money the airport, container of money from the Freeport – this why we are asking some of these individuals to kindly work with the investigative team led by the Ministry of Justice,” Nagbe told the BBC’S Focus on Africa program on Wednesday.
“Even after several weeks of investigation we still have not seen documentary proof that all of the money that was printed and brought into the country was placed into the custody of the CBL.”
For all her achievement in maintaining peace in Liberia after two civil wars and an Ebola attack that killed thousands, Sirleaf has been criticized for nepotism and not doing enough to end corruption in the West African country.
Although, in 2012, she suspended her son, Charles from his position at the CBL over claims of corruption, he was reappointed as interim governor of the CBL. As president, Sirleaf’s two other sons also had government posts Robert Sirleaf was the senior adviser and chairperson of state oil company Nocal, and Fumba Sirleaf is the head of the National Security Agency.