Liberia: Finance Minister Hints Money Got Stolen; But Say ‘Not L$16 Billion’

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Monrovia – In early October, when the issue of the containers full of billions of Liberian dollar banknotes that cannot be accounted for was a hot topic of public discourse, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) quickly dismissed the media reports that the money was missing and informed the press that the L$16 billion printed between 2016 and 2018 is not missing, but in the Bank’s vaults.

In that October 2 press conference, the Governor of Bank, Nathaniel Patray, said, “The CBL wants to clarify to the general public and partners in progress that there is no L$16 billion missing as has been erroneously reported in the media. The CBL has no records showing that the monies printed under its authority have not yet been delivered into its reserve vaults. Record from the Crane Currency of Sweden, which was contracted to print the money, shows that the Crane delivered L$15.5 billion through the Freeport and RIA between 2016 and 2018 and that all these monies were logged by the CBL and delivered into the reserves vaults of the CBL.”

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Initially, this disclosure corroborated with that of Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, who dismissed earlier assertion by Information Minister, Eugene Nagbe, that containers of money were missing. Mr. Tweah categorically said on local radio stations in Monrovia that the L$16 billion was not missing.
But on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, Min. Tweah had a rather clever explanation for members of the Senate while updating them on the state of the economy and details pertaining to the questionable L$16 billion.

He said though he is on record for saying no L$16 billion was missing, he never meant no money was missing. According to him, findings from the investigation could prove that money is missing, but not L$16 billion as alleged.
Tweah: “If we are investigating something missing my clue to you is that we are going to find something more. That was a general statement in caution. The media is here, let me clarify to you that I said no L$16 billion is missing, I didn’t say no money is missing. Those two statements are different.

“No 16 billion is missing is not equal to no money is missing. At the end of this investigation, when the report is published, the country will know if there is anything missing. The investigation will tell you x-amount is missing; at that time, you will know that you cannot know that before.”
He made the statement while explaining a 38-page report on the state of economy before the Senate.

Tuesday’s public hearing was a continuation of last Thursday’s hearing in which the Economic Management Team was expected to explain to Plenary the status of the economy, how the US$25 million reportedly used to mop out excess Liberian dollar from the economy was disbursed and its performance and also provide details of the L$16 billion reported to be missing.

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The team was also expected to provide adequate report on the price rates of basic commodities set by the Commerce Ministry.

Minister Tweah heads the Technical Economic Management Team which also comprise the Governor of the Central Bank, the Minister of Commerce and the Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority.

Minister Tweah told the Senate that a total of L$16 billion plus is in circulation in the economy. He, however, said, the CBL (which was not present) could provide a more detailed explanation on the monetary aspect of the state of the economy.

For some Senators, the absence of all members of the CBL Board was a big issue which led to several minutes of debate on whether or not the hearing to be held in their absence.

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