Five former officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) have been sent back to jail by the Commercial Court at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill on the charge of ‘Money Laundering’ as the Liberian government leveled against them this newest crime.
Those resent to jail include Mr. Milton Weeks, former Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Charles E. Sireaf, suspended Deputy Governor for Operations and three other staff of the Central Bank will now have to fight this new charge leveled against them.
The former Central Bank of Liberia officials were yesterday scheduled for hearing at the court at the Temple of Justice on previous charges for which they were indicted and released on bond, but to their surprise a new indictment was drawn against them which included money laundering.
While awaiting for the commencement of the hearing, our reporter who was at the court said instead, a Writ of Arrest was immediately served on them, as they were taken to the Monrovia Central Prison.
This is the second time the five Central Bank staff have been arrested and detained following the release of the Kroll and the PIT reports on the printing of Liberian dollar banknotes. They were accused of printing excess banknotes without the approval of the Legislature as required by law.
The defendants on March 1, 2019 including Charles Sirleaf, Deputy Governor of Operations at the Central Bank along with Dorbor Hagba , Director of Finance were arrested by officers at the Liberian National Police at the CBL Headquarter on Ashmun Street, followed by the arrest of former CBL Governor Milton Weeks, Director of Operation Richard Walker and Deputy Director of Internal Audit Joseph Dennis.
All five Defendants who were previously released on bail were initially charged with economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, facilitation and solicitation.
Before the re-arrest on Tuesday, the presiding judge of the Criminal Court “C”, Blamo Dixon, Tuesday gave the state prosecutors 72 hours to turn over to the defense counsel its pieces of evidence against the Defendants for the defense team to peruse.
“The court further observes that prosecution has not disclosed to the Defendants through their legal counsels all of the species of evidence that the prosecution intends to produce at the trial, therefore, the prosecution is hereby given 72 hours to turn over all evidence to the Defendants,” said Judge Dixon who ordered the case adjourned to resume on Monday, August 26, 2019 at 11:00 am after the defense shall have received the evidence.
Judge Dixon further added that the court also observes that Crane Currency of Crane AB. SE-14782 of Tumba, Sweden, a Co-Defendant, has not been brought under the jurisdiction of the court and advised the prosecution to invoke the appropriate law to that effect.
In its latest indictment of money laundering, state prosecutors contend that in April 2016 and up to and including August 2016 “the five Defendants knowingly, deliberately and intentionally collude and conspired with the wicked intent to launder money and sabotage the Liberian economy by unauthorizingly printing excess Liberian Dollar banknotes amounting to L$2,645,000.00 and also unauthorizingly paid and caused to be paid and did pay the amount of U$835, 367.72 to co-defendant to Crane Currency of Sweden for the amount printed”.
The indictment stated that it was from the publication of the story in a local daily the Hot Pepper Newspaper of 2018 that a container containing Liberia dollar destined for the Central Bank of Liberia went missing that led to public outcry and street demonstrations causing the government to set up a Presidential Investigative Team to probe the claim and a call on the UN, ECOWAS,AU and other friendly nations including the United States to assist with the independent investigators from outside of Liberia to probe the allegation.
According to the indictment, from the investigation conducted independently by the PIT and Kroll Associates from the U.S. it was established that on May 17, 2016 Co-Defendant Charles Sirleaf while serving as acting Executive Governor of CBL made a request thru former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the Legislature to print L$5,000,000,000 to replace the legacy notes known as mutilated notes.
The state prosecutors further stated that both the Houses of Representatives and Senate through a joint resolution granted approval to the CBL and a contract was executed with co-defendant Crane Currency for the amount of US$5,210,000 for L$5,000,000.000 to be printed.
Though the state prosecutors claimed that the approval for the printing of the L$5,000,000,000 new Liberian bank notes was granted by the Legislature on May 17, 2016 but Co-Defendant Charles Sirleaf had earlier executed and entered into a contract with co-defendant Crane Currency on May 6, 2016, 11 days before the approval by the Legislature.
“Article II of the contract signed provides for the allowance of plus or minus 1.5% fluctuation in the actual in the actual quantity of banknotes to be printed due to practicalities of banknotes printing and that the CBL and Crane Currency would treat such instances by mutual consent through the establishing of side letters,” the indictment stated.
According to the indictment, the contract amount for the printing of the L$5,000,000,000 was US$5,210,000 the five accused CBL officials with wicked intent to defraud, launder money and sabotage the economy when they caused to be paid to co-defendant Crane Currency the amount of US$5,611,469.58 and excess of US$401, 469.58 when there were no signed letters for the extra Liberian bank notes.
The indictment concluded that in printing of the unauthorized L$10 billion, co-defendant Crane Currency surreptitiously proceeded to print and caused to be printed L$410, 359.750,000, 359, 750,000 in excess of the contract amount and that Co-defendants Milton Weeks, Charles Sirleaf and Dorbor Hagba proceeded to pay US$12,166, 831.12 to Co-Defendant Crane Currency for the amount to be paid for the printing the unauthorized L$ 10,000,000,000.
“The Defendants act is contrary to 4LCLR Title 26, Section15.3 (a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)4LCLR.Title26. Section2.2 (b) and the peace and dignity of the Republic of Liberia” the indictment concluded.