Liberia

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Liberia to learn how to handle 'imported' currency

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC Africa, Monrovia

Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Patray
BBC
Central Bank Governor Nathaniel Patray denied that millions of dollars were missing.

Liberia's central bank chief Nathaniel Patray has told the BBC he’s in consultations with his colleagues in the sub-region to advise him on how to handle money printed abroad and then brought into the country.

Liberian officials denied last month the alleged disappearance of more than $100m (£76m) of newly printed bank notes intended for the central bank.

The notes allegedly vanished from containers in Monrovia’s port and airport - and the government ordered an investigation in September.

Mr Patray denied the money was missing, saying an internal audit found that all the notes, shipped from a Swedish printer between 2016 and 2018, had been accounted for and had been stored in vaults.

Liberia leader orders officials to declare assets

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC Africa, Monrovia

George Weah
AFP
Mr Weah didn't declare his own assets for six months

Liberian President George Weah has ordered those officials who are yet to declare their assets to do so in one week “or face punitive action consistent with law".

He said asset declaration under his regime "will be enforced to the letter and there will be no sacred cows".

Mr Weah, who is an ex-footballer, said he had told the people of Liberia during his campaign that “our government would adopt a zero-tolerance posture towards corruption".

The code of conduct for public officials mandates them to declare their assets before assuming office.

But Mr Weah was in violation of this himself, only declaring his assets to the anti-corruption commission under public pressure six months after taking over on 22 January.

Mr Weah did not make his declaration public - something officials are not obliged to do.

Only 25% of members of the executive branch of government have filled in their asset declaration, according to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

The commission says the vast majority of people in the judiciary have complied, but none of the 103 MPs have yet done so.

Liberia MPs order arrest of 'missing money' reporter

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC Africa, Monrovia

Protesters in Liberia with a sign: "Bring Back Our Money" - September 2018
Jonathan Paye-Layleh/BBC
There have been protests over the missing money

Liberia's House of Representatives has ordered the arrest of the journalist who broke the news about the alleged disappearance of more than $100m-worth (£76m) of newly printed bank notes intended for the central bank.

The notes allegedly vanished from containers in Monrovia’s port and airport - and the government ordered an investigation in September.

Central bank governor Nathaniel Patray denied the money was missing, saying an internal audit found that all the notes, shipped from a Swedish printer between 2016 and 2018, had been accounted for and had been stored in vaults.

Journalist Philipbert Browne had been asked to come to parliament on Tuesday to explain why, during a recent radio interview, he had accused some MPs of taking bribes to allow for the unlawful printing of the money.

But he failed to show up, so House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has asked the justice ministry and the police to arrest and produce “the living body” of Mr Browne before the house on Friday.

Mr Browne runs the Hot Pepper newspaper that is known for breaking news about sensitive matters.

He was a former assistant defence minister when Charles Taylor was president.

His family have been intimidated and he has received death threats since reporting on the alleged missing money.

Prisoners on hunger strike in Liberia

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC Africa, Monrovia

Inmates at Liberia's largest rural prison have gone on hunger strike over a number of concerns, including lack of meals and poor sanitation, state radio reported Wednesday.

The inmates at the prison in the east of the country are quoted as complaining that their meals have been reduced from three times to once a day, with each person now getting just one spoon of rice.

Inmates who fall sick are made to pay for fuel to be transported to hospital, the report said.

They are also required to pay for their medication.

The inmates wants the prison’s director replaced and have resolved to remain on hunger strike until the situation is corrected.

State radio could not get regional prison authorities to comment and efforts by the BBC to speak to the ministry of justice on the matter also proved unsuccessful.

Liberian prisons are crowded with pre-trial detainees who do not get a speedy trial because of a lack of adequate funding for the justice system.

Liberia drops university tuition fees

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC Africa, Monrovia

People stand outside the Fendall Campus of the University of Liberia near Monrovia, on October 12, 2017.
AFP

Liberia's President George Weah has announced the dropping of tuition fees for undergraduate students at state universities and colleges.

The students will, however, have to pay other fees associated with their studies.

Speaking at the University of Liberia campus on Wednesday, Mr Weah said that as president the least he could do is to give Liberian students an education.

There are only two state-run universities in Liberia, and another five state-run higher education institutions which are a mix of rural and community colleges.

University of Liberia students had recently been active in protests calling on the government to account for the disappearance of $100m-worth (£76m) of newly printed bank notes intended for the central bank.

'No missing cash' in Liberia, says central bank

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC Africa, Monrovia

Protesters holding a sign
Getty Images
There have been protests in Liberia over the money that has allegedly gone missing

No cash has gone missing in Liberia despite reports of more than $100m (£76m) worth of freshly printed banknotes having disappeared, the head of the country's central bank has said.

Several central bank officials were banned from travelling abroad after the story broke last month as the government ordered an investigation into the alleged disappearance.

Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, announcing the investigation in September, said there were no records that the banknotes were delivered to the central bank or had been put into circulation.

Talking to journalists on Tuesday, bank governor Nathaniel Patray said the information was untrue.

He said 15.5bn Liberian dollars ($100m) printed in Sweden in banknotes have been delivered into the bank vaults.

“The CBL (Central Bank of Liberia) has no records showing that monies printed under its authority have not yet been delivered into its reserve vaults,” Mr Patray said.

The governor also called for the removal of the travel bans to allow his staff to work.

Liberians protest over missing millions

Jonathan Paye-Layleh

BBC Africa, Monrovia

Protesters hold a sign reading "bring back our money"
Jonathan Paye Layleh/BBC
The protests have been dubbed "Bring Back Our Money"

Hundreds have joined protests in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, in anger at the disappearance of more than $100m-worth (£76m) of newly printed bank notes intended for the central bank.

That sum, which vanished from the country's main port and airport when the notes were imported for distribution, accounts for 5% of the country's GDP according to the Financial Times.

Liberia's government has banned 15 people, including the son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, from leaving the country while it investigates what happened.

The government has asked the IMF and the FBI to assist with the investigation. But according to President George Weah in a statement, the role of those international partners will be to advise the government on transparency. Citizens say this does not go far enough, and are instead calling for the those organisations to be directly involved in the probe.

Protesters have amassed outside the US embassy hoping to get their message heard:

Protesters hold signs in Monrovia
Jonathan Paye Layleh/BBC
Protesters hold signs and join hands in Monrovia
Jonathan Paye Layleh/BBC