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Documents confirm Crane Currency indicted in Liberia, despite denials

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat signing Crane Currency Deal in Malta. Photo Jason Borg, DOI

Crane Currency has been indicted in Liberia for economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation. A “writ of arrest” seen by The Shift confirms that the company was charged alongside five former executives from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

The writ of arrest states that Crane Currency AB of Tumba Sweden “did conspire to, and did do, and did commit the crime of criminal facilitation”. Crane Currency AB is part of the international group Crane Currency, which also has a large operations and customer care facility in Malta.

According to the document, former Central Bank of Liberia employees “did knowingly and intentionally collude and conspire with co-defendant Crane Currency to execute two contracts for the printing of Liberian dollar banknotes, prior to approval from the legislator”, and for printing an excess amount and “concealing” the actual amount “geared towards defrauding the CBL/Government of Liberia to the tune of 2,645,000,000 Liberian dollars (€12,094,729)”.

The Shift received confirmation from a spokesperson at the Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia that charges have been filed against Crane Currency AB, despite the company’s repeated denials that they are under indictment. 

When asked by The Shift how they were going to proceed with the case against them, a spokesperson for Crane Currency, located in Boston, USA, said, “We continue to stand by the statement we have posted on our website”. 

The statement insists that “Crane has not been charged with any crime in Liberia”, despite the writ of arrest. The company claims that “in the spirit of openness and transparency, we have also shared all the relevant evidence from within Crane with the authors of the Kroll and Presidential Investigation Team reports.” 

The Kroll report, created for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), seen by The Shift, states that Crane AB had “printed and shipped a greater quantity of banknotes to Liberia”, entered into a contract with CBL without adhering to procurement policies, and that there was “inconsistency in shipping records provided by Crane AB”. 

Kroll also repeatedly noted that they were not provided with many of the documents they needed, and other documents that they received had issues or were not accurate.

The Presidential Investigation Team report, also seen by The Shift, found that Crane Currency AB overprinted notes and was “overpaid” $401,469.58 (€364,052.62) through a payment that was not authorised by the government and was “outside the terms of the contract”.

It adds that Crane AB “knowingly and willfully conspired with officials of the CBL to defraud the Government of Liberia” in violation of the law. They “should be charged and prosecuted” for criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation, according to the report.

A source in Liberia who has been involved in investigating the case said Crane Currency “have not received any indictment”, due to the fact they are no longer physically present in the country. The source, who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity, explained that the writ must be served by the Sheriff of the Court, but “I have never heard of a court in Liberia being sophisticated enough to service indictments by mail or by proxy.”

According to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Crane Currency was lured to Malta by his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri. Muscat described Schembri as “the catalyst in making sure things got done” in terms of getting the deal signed.

It was later revealed that Crane would be using printing equipment made by Komori, which is distributed locally by Schembri’s company, Kasco. Schembri said that Kasco wouldn’t be supplying machinery, but that it may be tasked with servicing the machines.

Malta Enterprise gave Crane some €81 million in loans to entice them to Malta, but both entities have declined to provide further information on this, citing confidentiality.

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