The Printing Of New Banknotes Walhalla, As Liberians Ponder Over Reason For ‘Fast-Tracking’

GNN investigation has discovered that most Liberians are seriously questioning the actual reason behind the fast-tracking of the printing of new banknotes before the holidays by the Executive branch of the Liberian Government.

An insider within the legislature has hinted the GNN that the Executive over the past weeks has been calling on members of the legislature to ‘cut short’ their break and return to the Capitol Building in order to speed up discussion on the printing of the banknote.

While at the same time there are report that serious of conversations are currently taking place between representatives from the Swedish money maker, Crane Currency and the Liberian government officials including the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the national legislature in a bid to resolve some unresolved issues.

GNN source at the National Legislature also hinted that Crane Currency which has over the years been the printer of the Liberian banknotes during the meeting has expressed displeasure on several issues surrounding the outstanding issues from both the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) and the Kroll Report over the missing LD16 billion and the US$25 million mop up money, which could pave the way for the printing of new local currencies.

A local daily quoting the PIT Report, noted that “The action of CRANE AB SE-14782 Tumba Sweden, a company duly contracted by the Government of Liberia, through the Central Bank of Liberia in two separate contracts to print the total of L$15,000,000,000(fifteen billion Liberian Dollar Banknotes) at the total cost of US$15,331,689.20, knowingly and willfully conspired with officials of the CBL to defraud the GOL, thereby ignoring the terms and conditions of the contract by printing L$18,151,000,000 in complete breach of the contract, and thereby incurring extra cost of US$835,367.72 to the GOL; is in violation of the following provisions of the Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia and should be charged and prosecuted for same.”

Following the revelations in the PIT report, the government announced that it was excluding Crane Currency from all future contracts in Liberia following the missing money scandal as the government announced plans to print new banknotes to replace all notes currently in circulation, which could include those that were allegedly fraudulently printed by Crane Currency.

Crane had previously told FrontPageAfrica that it does not comment about our customers or potential customers.

But in March, the company issued a statement, clarifying that it had not been charged with any crime in Liberia, and at all times Crane has operated in full compliance with the law and rejects completely any allegation of wrongdoing.

The Swedish company denied receiving kickbacks to print more money than it was contracted to print. “That allegation is false and without merit. Crane fulfilled its contractual obligations as set out in two delivery contracts and two subsequent documented agreements between the CBL for Crane to deliver the finished banknotes, and every banknote delivered was properly invoiced and accounted for. Crane was paid in full the correct amount (and no more) as had been agreed with our Liberian customer for these contracted deliveries of banknotes, and there were no excess or improper payments made by the CBL or any other party.”

Crane indicated that since its founding in 1865, it has operated with the highest standards of ethics and integrity. All employees are bound to operate in spirit and in practice with the resolution of our founder R.T. Crane, who stated on July 4, 1855: “I am resolved to conduct my business in the strictest honesty and fairness; to avoid all deception and trickery; to deal fairly with both customers and competitors; to be liberal and just toward employees; and to put my whole mind upon the business.” We are also an independently audited member of the Banknote Ethics Initiative.

Crane challenged the allegations and declared: “In the spirit of openness and transparency, we have also shared all relevant evidence from within Crane with the authors of the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team reports.”

While it is unclear how soon the unresolved issues would be concluded, paving the way for the printing of new banknotes, FPA has not been able to verify whether the new printing would be a new design or the ones already in circulation.

This, multiple diplomatic sources confirmed told  FPA recently, could prove to be decisive as international stakeholders insist on having those issues addressed before giving its blessing to the government proceeding with new or additional printing of money.

Recently an executive member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Representative Moses Acarous Gray of Montserrado County District # 8, justified the impact of the printing of new Liberian banknotes by the George Manneh Weah-led administration.

According to Representative Gray, the printing of the new banknotes will help put smiles on the faces of civil servants (the bulk of who have not taken pay for several months), for the festive season.

His assertions were contained in a statement posted on social media last week.

“Printing of money will also help pay our civil servants on time for the Christmas break, but you are kicking against it because you believe that if civil servants are not paid on time, they could join you in your so-called Weah must resign failed protest”

He lashed at those criticizing the printing of new Liberian banknotes by the Weah-administration in the midst of numerous economic challenges.

“Printing of money will also help pay our civil servants on time for the Christmas break, but you are kicking against it because you believe that if civil servants are not paid on time, they could join you in your so-called Weah must resign failed protest,” Representative Gray stated.

“See how these guys are so evil to the suffering masses,” he added.

Representative Gray has accused those he called “rascals” of printing the controversial L$10 billion during the regime of former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

He believed that the printing of new banknotes will be compelled “crooks” to continue to spend the old ones that were printed.

“I see no reason why we must not print a new banknote and withdraw from the market the old ones. These rascals who printed the extra L$10bn to undermine this administration will bring out that old money when a new one is printed,” he maintained.

Representative Gray furthered: “These crooks are now spending some of that stolen money on the so-called advocates for the purpose of misleading the public that printing money now is evil. Don’t be misled by these tricksters.”

The idea of printing new Liberian banknotes is not going down well with some members of the 54th National Legislature.

One of such persons is Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon.

The Liberty Party lawmaker wants Liberians to prevail upon their respective lawmakers to disapprove of the printing of new Liberian banknotes.

He said citizens should be abreast about the outcome of investigations into the US$16 billion and US$25million mop-up exercise, as well as structural changes put in place to avoid re-occurrence, especially at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

“Citizens of Liberia, please prevail upon your lawmakers and if possible, pressure them to not give approval to the printing of new banknotes. We first need to know what actually happened to the US$16b and the US$25m said to have been infused into the economy to mop up excess Liberian dollars from the market,” Dillon stated on the social media.

It remains unclear whether or not lawmakers will yield to the reported call of the Executive to attend an extra sitting which is in keeping with Article 32(b) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

Article 32(b) states: “The President shall, on his own initiative or upon receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total membership of each House, and by proclamation, extend a regular session of the Legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call a special or extraordinary session of that body to discuss or act upon matters of national emergency and concern. When the extension or call is at the request of the Legislature, the proclamation shall be issued not later than 48 hours after receipt of the certificate by the President”.

There are reports that lawmakers are demanding the full payment of their salary arrears and “extra sitting fee” before signing a resolution to return for the extra sitting.

With all of this, Liberians who spoke to the GNN are still wondering, and questioning the reason behind this rush to print new banknotes when all of these unresolved issues are still pending.

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About Cholo Brooks 12612 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.