L$10.7billion Who Benefited? – Weeks’ 2017 Testimony Before Legislators May Hold the Answer

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Former Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Milton Weeks. Photo Credit Nwelt A. Mathies

This May 3, 2017 news article published in New Democrat may be instructive to investigators probing into ‘missing billions.’

In this story, then Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Milton Weeks told legislators he could not account for L$10billion. He pleaded for secret talks with legislators to give details.

The Weah administration has commissioned investigation into the flow or importation of money into the country from 2016 to 2018.

 The Story

Nearly 10 months after the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) announced the printing of an estimated $8 billion Liberian dollars to replace old banknotes, the defaced bills are still in circulation.

The Bank’s Executive Governor Milton Weeks told a Senate inquiry Tuesday in Monrovia that the CBL is unable to account for L$10.9 billion dollars that are outside the banking sector.

“We have L$ 12.7 billion in circulation since the bank printed the new banknotes. The amount in circulation constitutes both the old and the new banknotes,” He said.

“L$10.9 billion are outside the banking sector but are not in circulation and are old banknotes of which some are destroyed. The banks are unable to account for such amount because it is not coming into the banks.”

He told Senators that the bank can only account for L$1.5 billion of the total money in circulation.

Weeks: “CBL has used various measures to withdraw mutilated notes. We have done an arrangement with the Liberian Marketing Association to withdraw mutilated banknotes from the market.

“CBL has five windows as part of our measures for the exchange of mutilated notes. We have also encouraged commercial banks to do the same.

“Two weeks ago, we sent a communication to commercial banks to be acted upon and that their failure there would be sanctioned. People are refusing the mutilated banknotes obviously because it is bad. We do not have the ability to change such notes.

Prior to Weeks presentation, he pleaded for secret or executive session with Senators on grounds that he was about to provide information that is sensitive and not best for public consumption.

His request was accepted and the matter was handled behind closed doors.

The Central Bank has not provided public information with respect to the total amount of mutilated bills that have been withdrawn from the market for destruction.

Central Banks usually face the potential risk of unscrupulous staff recycling old notes destined for destruction into the market.

In June 2015, CNN reported six top executives in Nigeria’s Central Bank were arrested and charged following the alleged theft of the equivalent of more than $40 million United States dollars.

The suspects were accused of replacing Nigeria’s old, defaced and mutilated naira notes, meant for destruction, with newspaper cut into the shape of the naira notes.

The newspaper was then destroyed and the old currency recycled back into the economy, according to Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Sixteen other commercial bankers were arrested and charged with conspiracy.

“They literally allowed greed and craze for materialism to becloud their sense of judgment and responsibility,” reads a statement from the EFCC at the time of the commission of the crime.