The government of Liberia is set to investigate the whereabouts of $104 million in missing cash intended for the central bank. Fifteen Liberian suspects, including the son of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have been banned from leaving the country.
Liberia’s Information Minister, Eugene Nagbe told a local radio station that a series of shipment of notes ordered by Liberia’s central bank from overseas printers since 2017, have disappeared after passing through the country’s main ports. The missing amount is equal to nearly 5 percent of Liberia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
A statement released by the Ministry of Information reveals that Charles Sirleaf and former central bank governor, Milton Weeks are among those forbidden to travel before the investigation is concluded. The ministry said “the government takes the ongoing investigation seriously because it has national security implications”.
The money was ordered before President George Weah resumed office. Investigators are trying to understand how much was ordered, where it was printed, how much arrived in the country, and where the money is right now. Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean said the Sirleaf administration failed to alert the current government of the initial order and investigation begun once Weah became aware.
The Minister of Information, told Voice of America there were no records of the containers being collected from the ports, yet the containers were recorded to have arrived in November 2017 and August 2018.
Liberia does not have its own mint and the central bank is the only body with the power to oder new currency. The last time the apex bank approved the printing of new notes was in August 2016.
The missing cash is an unpleasant development in Libera, one of the poorest countries in the world that suffered two civil wars between 1989 and 2003. Ellen Sirleaf was praised for encouraging peace during her 12 year presidency, but was criticised for failing to reduce corruption.