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Min. Tweah Denies Corruption Claims

By: Darlington Porkpa

Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah has denied involvement in any act of corruption relating to the infusion of US$17million into the economy, saying that he will never engage in any fraudulent activities against Liberia.

He has also distanced himself from any wrong-doing in the recent mop-up exercise geared towards stabilizing the Liberian dollar’s depreciation against the United States dollars.

Few months ago parallel investigations were launched by both the Liberian and the United States Governments following media reports on the disappearance of a container of 16 billion Liberian dollars newly printed banknotes, worth more than 100 million US dollars.

The media reports were followed by street protests from opposition groups calling on the U.S Government through its Embassy to launch independent investigations into the alleged missing money.

The final Report released by the investigative team Kroll, a company hired by the U.S Embassy through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was released on February 28, 2019 the same day that the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) headed by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the newly established Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), among others released their version of the report.

In its Report, the auditing firm Kroll indicated that it did not find any proof that money disappeared from Monrovia’s sea port and airport.

Both the U.S and the Presidential Investigative Teams questioned the manner in which the mop-up exercise that was done by the CBL was conducted, thereby calling for a forensic audit to be conducted on the entire process.

Meanwhile, speaking to supporters upon his return to Liberia, the Finance Minister urged Liberians to be calm as they await the forensic investigations, stressing that whoever is found liable will face the full weight of the law.

“I will never, ever, engage into any fraudulent activities against Liberia. Whoever that is responsible, will face the full weight of the law” Minister Tweah stressed.

Providing clarity on some of the allegations against him, the Minister said over US$ 15 million, (Fifteen Million United States dollars), out of US$ 17 million (Seventeen million United States), were infused into the economy by the Technical Economic Management Team (TMT), a team set-up by President George Weah to address the Liberian dollar’s rapid fall against the U.S. dollar.

Of that amount, he indicated that two million United States dollars (US$ 2 million) were given to ‘Total Liberia’. He assured Liberians that technical details of institutions that received the money will be disclosed in the weeks to come.

He said about 2.3 billion Liberian dollars were realized from the 15 million United States dollars, (Fifteen million United States dollars) mop-up, and kept at the Central Bank of Liberia. The monies, he explained came as of December 2018 and were part of the mop-up money.

Tweah noted that the Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT), empowered by the president, came up with a strategy to get the huge Liberian dollars from outside the CBL, adding that in accordance with normal central bank operations, money auctions do not have impact on the exchange rate, and the TEMT trust the integrity of the CBL to do money operations.

He indicated that no member of the TEMT saw physical money outside the CBL and that the TEMT acted on the experience of the CBL to do money business, because the CBL monitors risks taking, in the financial sector.“We acted on the experience of the CBL to monitors risks in the financial sector, because when managing risks; they go to the local banks to know whether they have secure environments for credits”.

The CBL, as part of risks management, also ask whether the local banks policies and programs are safe enough for the public, “who am I to tell the CBL we will teach you how to do risks management” he stressed.

Already, the son of Liberia’s former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been charged over the disappearance of 2 billion Liberian dollars in freshly printed banknotes.

Charles Sirleaf appeared at the Monrovia City Court Monday alongside Milton Weeks, the former Central Bank Governor and the CBL Banking Director Dorbor Hagba.

The three were charged with a string of offences, including criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage and misuse of public money.

According to the charge sheet, seen by the New Liberia newspaper online, defendant Charles Sirleaf, 61, and his accomplices Milton Weeks and Dorbor M. Hagba, including defendants Richard H. Walker and Joseph F. Dennis, currently at large, are criminally liable for two billion-six hundred forty five million (LD$2,645,000,000) Liberian dollars in banknotes brought into the country that cannot be accounted for by them.

The accused bank officials were dragged to the Monrovia Central Prisons on Monday March 4 where they are awaiting their lawyers to file in a valid bill bond to secure their release from further detention, pending the full adjudication of the matter.