Two of Liberia’s central bank officials have been detained over widespread malpractice at the bank related to $104 million in missing bank notes.
In September, the Justice Ministry in Liberia announced that it was investigating what happened to the newly printed bank notes that disappeared. The amount of the notes was equal to 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
The Central Bank had ordered the Liberian dollars from a printer that was located overseas, and the money went missing between November and August of last year. Authorities confirmed at the time that 15 officials, including the son of Nobel Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the former central bank governor, were being investigated and were ordered not to leave Liberia.
According to Reuters, the investigation has revealed that the cash was delivered to the central bank’s vaults, and showed evidence of alleged wrongdoing and malpractice at the central bank.
“Kroll has identified discrepancies at every stage of the process for controlling the movement of banknotes into and out of the (central bank),” said the report, which was commissioned by the United States at the request of the Liberian government.
The report also identified weaknesses at the bank and “shortcomings in Liberia’s fiscal and monetary management processes that are longstanding and continue to the present day.”
In addition, a Liberian government report that was released on the same day detailed that notes worth $16.5 million were still missing and that the bank’s management “deviated from conventional best practices.”
As a result of the evidence found, Deputy Central Bank Governor Charles Sirleaf and Director of Banking Dorbor Hagba were both led away in handcuffs on Thursday (February 28). Law enforcement confirmed that both men had been detained.
The scandal has been President George Weah’s biggest crisis since he took office a year ago. “Masses are very anxious, and many are facing economic hardship,” said Musa Ziamo, a Monrovia-based independent analyst, at the time.