Son of ex-Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf arrested over missing $100m

Mildred Europa Taylor March 05, 2019
detained last week just hours after independent US investigators released a report into the missing millions. Pic credit: RFI

A son of former Liberian leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been charged in connection with the unlawful overprinting of local currency worth millions of U.S. dollars. Charles Sirleaf, alongside another colleague at Liberia’s Central Bank, was arrested on Thursday following a probe into reports of missing banknotes and alleged malpractices at the bank.

Sirleaf, who was deputy governor of the central bank, is suspected of pocketing some of the proceeds in 2016 to 2018, reports the BBC.

A charge sheet cited by the Associated Press states that Sirleaf, and three other bank officials, were on Monday charged with economic sabotage, the misuse of public money and criminal conspiracy.

The accused, who are yet to comment on the development, have been taken to Monrovia Central Prison pending their court appearance.

The 61-year-old Sirleaf and his colleagues were detained last week just hours after independent U.S. investigators released a report into the missing millions.

Last October, scores of protestors hit the streets of Monrovia following rumours of disappearance of $100 million (about $15 billion Liberian dollars) worth of newly printed banknotes destined for the central bank.

The cash was said to have been shipped from Sweden late 2017, in the midst of Liberia’s elections to choose a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The incident sparked off blame games and travel bans, as well as, public outrage in one of the poorest countries in the world. Critics of the government pointed accusing fingers at President George Weah for the missing money while others blamed the former leader, Sirleaf.

Since assuming office, corruption has also been a hard nut to crack for President Weah. Following protests about the alleged missing cash, U.S. then intervened at the request of the Liberian government and civil society groups, and sponsored an inquiry by Kroll Associates, an investigative auditing firm.

Kroll said contrary to local reports that a container of banknotes went missing, its investigations “found no information to support allegations.”

It said that it rather found that Liberia’s Central Bank had acted unilaterally and unlawfully by printing and importing into the country three times the amount of banknotes it had been authorised to do, said the BBC.

Kroll added that the new banknotes all arrived from a Swedish company but the central bank failed to properly track what was done with them. Most of the bank notes are believed to have been put into circulation without authorities removing and destroying the old bills they were designed to replace, the Kroll report cited by AP noted.

Media reports state that officials at the central bank have also not been forthcoming in explaining who authorized the injection of new banknotes without removing the old ones.

Anderson Miamen, executive director of CENTAL in Liberia believes that the money went into the pockets of individuals.

“…If the money isn’t available and there is no record of the money being infused into the economy, it means it has to be somewhere.

“And that somewhere would be in it private accounts of individuals connected to the process,” he was quoted by DW.

Meanwhile, Sirleaf, who was a deputy governor at the central bank when the bank notes were unlawfully ordered, has denied any wrongdoing.

This is not the first time that members of the Sirleaf family have been the source of scandal. Robert Sirleaf, another son of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was also implicated in some corrupt practices, said a Liberian journalist, Mark Dahen.

Robert Sirleaf was the chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), that reportedly went bankrupt under his chairmanship in 2016. According to Dahen, 30 million to 40 million US Dollar disappeared under Robert Sirleaf’s watch.

Related image
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Pic credit:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was also recently accused of being one of the African leaders that had stashed their monies in offshore havens.

Sirleaf was elected as the world’s first elected black female president and Africa’s first elected female head of state in 2005.

She took over power in Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that was based on democracy.

Ellen Johnson stayed in office until 2018 handing over the presidency to George Weah, the former international footballer.

When Weah assumed power in Liberia in January 2018, he promised to reform the economy that has been struggling to recover following the 2014-15 Ebola crisis, to fight corruption and nepotism and bring in a new era for the West African country.

But after over a year in office, critics say that the 51-year-old’s administration has been faced with some challenges including slip-ups with some appointments he made.

Last Edited by:Victor Ativie Updated: April 17, 2020


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