Officials from the Central Bank of Liberia have been indicted with an additional charge of money laundering, topping up a list of other charges, for allegedly printing excess Liberian Dollar banknotes through Crane Currency that also operates in Malta.
The former Governor of the Central Bank, Milton Weeks, the former Deputy Governor of Operations, Charles Sirleaf , and three other staff members were arrested and detained earlier this month. They were already charged with economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, facilitation, and solicitation bin March.
It is alleged that during 2016, the five defendants “knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally colluded and conspired with the intent to launder money and the Liberian economy by unauthorisedly printing excess Liberian Dollar bank notes amounting to L$ 2,645,000 (almost €14.4 million).
The indictment also refers to payments of some €736,142 in payments to Crane Currency to print the illicit notes. The company has denied the reports,saying the company has not been charged with any crime in Liberia. The Liberian government insisted Crane Currency had been charged, despite the denial.
The presiding judge on the case in Liberia pointed out that Crane Currency had not yet been brought under the jurisdiction of the court, urging the prosecution to do so.
Crane Currency operates a large facility in Malta as a result of negotiations with the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Keith Schembri, who was described as the “catalyst” for the deal. The Maltese government loaned Crane Currency €81 million for equipment and machinery, refusing to give any details on the deal on grounds that the information was “secret and confidential”.
According to reports in the Liberian media, the fraud was discovered after an investigation by the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) assisted by the UN, the Economic Community Of Western African States (ECOWAS) and Kroll Associates from the US, among others.
The report by the investigative team states that Crane Currency had “knowingly and willfully conspired with officials of the CBL, to defraud the Government of Liberia.”
Questions sent to Crane Currency on the case and the company’s relationship with the accused and the Liberian government remained unanswered.