Report: Liberian bank ordered 3 times money authorized


MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberia’s central bank illegally ordered three times the number of bank notes it had been authorized to print — and now can’t properly account for most of them, according to findings of an external investigation released Thursday.

The Liberian government and the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, among others, had commissioned the probe by the U.S.-based firm Kroll Associates following reports in August that about $100 million had disappeared — an amount equal to nearly 5 percent of the West African country’s GDP.

Kroll said their investigation found no evidence of a large shipment of money going missing as had been reported by local media. Instead the new bank notes all arrived from a Swedish company but the Central Bank of Liberia then failed to properly track what was done with them.

The report said most of them are believed to have been put into circulation without authorities removing and destroying the old bills they were designed to replace.

“Kroll has identified discrepancies at every stage of the process for controlling the movement of bank notes into and out of the Central Bank of Liberia,” it said.

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Liberians have been eagerly awaiting Thursday’s release of the report.

Critics of President George Weah’s government have accused his administration of having a hand in the poor handling of the bank notes for their personal gain, an allegation they have denied.

Government officials imposed travel restrictions on 35 people in September including the son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Charles Sirleaf, a deputy at the Central Bank of Liberia, has denied any wrongdoing.

In 2016, Liberia’s House of Representatives passed a resolution approving the printing of 5 billion Liberian dollars to replace old bank notes. However, an additional 10 billion was ordered without proper legislative approval.

“This raised the risk of unintended negative economic effect, including high inflation and the rapid depreciation of the (Liberian dollar)” the report said.

It said the bank has not cooperated in explaining who approved the injection of new bank notes without removing the old ones.

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