Former Liberian President’s Son Charged With Corruption
The Liberian National Police charged Charles Sirleaf, former Deputy Governor for Operations of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and son of former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with “economic sabotage, misuse of public funds, [and] criminal facilitation” on March 4, according to Radio France Internationale (RFI). This follows the disappearance of over two billion Liberian Dollars ($12 million), from the bank, according to RFI.
Police charged four others with the crime, including Milton Weeks, former Central Bank Governor; Dorbor Hargba, Director of Banking; and two other CBL officials, Joseph Dennis and Richard Walker. The government arrested the former two, along with Sirleaf, and sent them to the Monrovia Central Prison where they await trial. The latter two remain at large.
These charges follow an investigation launched in August 2018 by Liberia’s Ministry of Justice after an alleged 15 to 16 billion Liberian Dollars ($100 million) supposedly went missing, according to the Liberia Broadcasting System and Al Jazeera.
Initial investigations began when the Ministry of Justice received information about the arrival of containers of money at the port and airport of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. The investigation revealed that the cash could have arrived as early as November 2017, under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ’s administration. Supposedly, the containers, destined for the Central Bank, were taken by CBL officials in March 2018 for transport but never arrived at their destination.
FrontPageAfrica reported that the missing money sparked mass protests in September 2018 as Liberians demonstrated under the slogan “Bring Back Our Money.” In October 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Liberia commissioned Kroll Associates Inc., a U.S. investigative firm, to investigate under the direction of the Liberian government, according to CNN.
Kroll’s final report, released at the end of February 2019, found that the money successfully arrived at the Central Bank. However, Kroll noted that the Central Bank unlawfully printed three times the number of bank notes than the legislature had approved, the Washington Post reports. AllAfrica reported that during police interrogation, Sirleaf admitted to contracting Swedish firm Crane Currency in 2016 for the consignment of new bank notes. These new notes are believed to have been put into circulation without removing old notes. Following these findings, the government charged Sirleaf and his accomplices for mishandling funds and pocketing some of the proceeds, as billions of Liberian dollars currently cannot be accounted for, according to Al Jazeera. The Washington Post reports that Sirleaf has denied any wrongdoing.
While uncertainty remains over the missing money, Liberian President George Weah stated: “When everything is done, I hope Liberia will be in peace and people will not take to the streets again.”