Crane Currency has been excluded from all future contracts in Liberia following a scandal involving over €14 million in illicitly printed bank notes, the country’s Finance Minister said.
Samuel Tweah, the Liberian Minister of Finance, told Front Page Africa that new banknotes will be printed to replace all notes currently in circulation, which could include those that were allegedly fraudulently printed by Crane Currency.
The scandal involves approximately €14.4 million in local currency was printed illicitly by Crane Currency and then funnelled back into the Liberian economy. A number of senior officials at the Central Bank of Libera are facing charges of economic sabotage, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, facilitation, and solicitation. An additional charge of money laundering was added earlier this month.
Nathaniel Patray, Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, said that so far no decision has been made on who will print the new bank notes.
The Shift contacted Crane Currency in Malta for their reaction to the news that their business was unwelcome in Liberia. “We do not comment about our customers or potential customers,” they said.
Last March, Crane Currency was accused of receiving over €700,000 for printing additional Liberian dollar bank notes, over and above what had been contracted.
The news came just one day after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had inaugurated a customer care centre at Crane Currency’s Malta plant, praising the company and saying it had “exceeded expectations”.
In Liberia, it is being linked with “one of the biggest financial scandals in the history of Liberia”. An excerpt from the report by the Liberian President’s Investigation Team states that Crane was a party to two contracts to print Liberian dollars, including the illicit funds, and that in 2016 it “knowingly and willfully conspired with officials of the CBL to defraud the Government of Liberia.”
In a previous response to The Shift, Crane Currency insisted it had “operated in full compliance with the law”, adding that it “rejects completely any allegation of wrongdoing”.
The government committed Maltese taxpayers to finance €81 million of loans to the company after the Prime Minister had thanked his chief of staff Keith Schembri for luring the company to Malta.
Schembri later admitted in a statement that his company “may” be tasked with servicing the Komori machines if Crane Currency decided to buy them, “as had been the case with the other company in the currency industry that operates in Malta”.
When asked if he thought Schembri would benefit personally from the deal he had helped facilitate, the Prime Minister had said, “no clue”. A government spokesperson had declined to comment on whether this arrangement presented a conflict of interest for the chief of staff.