U.S Embassy Breaks Silence
-L$16 Billion Investigation On Course
-Information Gathering Complete
Finally, U.S. Embassy near Monrovia has broken silence and categorically clarified circumstances surrounding investigation on reported missing 16 billion printed Liberian banknotes.
The clarification comes amid frustration and growing distrust amongst Liberians over the failure of those who are handling the investigation, including a special Presidential Taskforce set up by President George Mannah Weah and a USAID hired international Firm to provide update on the investigation.Speaking in Monrovia recently, U.S. Ambassador accredited to Liberia, Christine Elder has managed to break silence on the matter after concerns were raised by many Liberians who are following the alleged missing money saga; she provided some update on the ongoing investigation.
According her, the USAID hired International forensic team has completed what she called “information gathering phase” which involved meeting with number of relevant persons in Monrovia, including those who are involved with domestic investigation.
The US envoy reported that the Government of Liberia provided full cooperation during the exercise, adding that the international forensic team has returned to where it came from and is now analyzing and compiling its findings to be made public, although she failed to mention how soon the report would be out.
The frustration of many Liberians who have been following debates, claims and counter-claims and other hostile developments surrounding the alleged missing $16 billion Liberian dollars printed have been exacerbated as a result of less information in the public about the investigation.
Few months ago, Liberians at home and abroad were given offensive awakening over reports that “16 billion” newly printed Liberian banknotes disappeared in thin air, although the report went wide as if the allegation has already been verified and culprits are identified.
The allegation soon generated apprehension across the country, and particularly those in Monrovia immediately formed themselves into various pressure groups under the canopy of civil society organizations and began to pressure the George Manneh Weah-led Administration to return the money.
Although Pres. Weah later announced the setting up of a special investigation team on the matter and appealed to other international partners, including the United States Government to intervene and bring the alleged culprits to justice, some aggrieved Liberians who did not trust the Government’s investigative team took to the streets in demand of the alleged missing billion; the protest action led them to various embassies near Monrovia, including the US whose response was very instrumental in the mitigation of the growing tension in the country then.
The United States Government, through its Embassy near Monrovia made tremendous intervention in an effort to authenticate report of the alleged missing billions of printed Liberian banknotes.
There were those who politicized the allegation, and to a larger degree, accused the current political regime under Pres. Weah of perpetrating such unprecedented financial scandal in the country’s corruption history.
The aggressive uproar, characterized by street protest and threats of dissent that greeted the “missing billions” allegation, constrained Pres. Weah to seek the immediate intervention of the United States Government through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the IMF and other credible financial crimes detectives to help with an already ongoing investigation commenced on August 8, 2018 by the Weah administration.
However, the US, through its diplomatic Mission in Liberia calmed the storm when it took a decision to hire the services of a reported credible group to carry on what the US embassy then described as “scoping mission” into the allegation.
According to a dispatch from the US Embassy during the period, “USAID has reached out to independent, internationally recognized firms with specialization in forensic investigations to conduct a scoping mission that could ascertain the basic facts of the alleged missing currency matter.”
The forensic team, according to the dispatch, would have also determined to what extent a broader mission would be needed, adding that “it is the assessment of the U.S. Embassy in Liberia that such a report would be the most credible and effective means to quickly determine the scale of the problem, and would be an appropriate means for the United States to support the Liberian Government’s and citizens’ desire to understand the allegations and facts.”
“If a broader and longer investigation was found to be needed after the scoping mission has concluded, the Liberian Government could discuss next steps with international partners”, the dispatch added.
However, to create the impression and perhaps, to reduce tension in the country, the U.S embassy disclosed that “to ensure the effectiveness and integrity of the process, the U.S. and Liberian Governments have agreed that the independent forensic investigators will conduct their work with full access to information needed and without the imposition of additional actors from the government, civil society, or international partners.”
Meanwhile, the dispatch added that Liberian Government and the U.S have agreed to make the report public. “We have agreed that the completed report will be made public, so that there is full transparency and understanding of the outcomes. We urge all Liberians to remain patient as the Liberian government, assisted by the United States and other international partners, considers appropriate and expeditious means to help resolve current concerns and questions about Liberia’s currency”.
“However, since the statement was issued months back, not much was heard about the ongoing investigation prompting many Liberians to develop a sense of mistrust and frustration over whatever effort that is being made in the investigation.
Meanwhile, many Liberians have expressed confidence following the clarification from the US embassy that justice would be rendered to the Liberian people at the end of the scoping mission.