Liberia banned 15 officials including a former central bank governor from leaving the country as it searches for about $100 million in cash, or the equivalent of almost one-fifth of its budget, that was printed abroad and disappeared after arriving at the port.
Former Governor Milton Weeks and a deputy governor for operations, Charles Sirleaf, a son of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are persons of interest in the probe into the missing bank notes, as well as several police officers, according to a statement from the communications ministry. Weeks resigned in March after holding the position for about two years.
Elected as president in January, retired soccer star George Weah has pledged to fight corruption in the West African nation that was hit by the Ebola crisis only a decade after the end of a protracted civil war. The vote marked Liberia’s first democratic transition of power between different political parties since 1944.
The government, which approved a $562 million budget this year, is trying to determine what happened to containers of Liberian dollars that were brought into the West African nation between 2016 and 2018 under the administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. It has invited the National Bar Association and several civil-society groups to participate in the investigation to ensure transparency, Attorney General Frank Musa Dean said in a separate statement late Wednesday.
“The idea is to understand how much money came into the country, how much was ordered, how much was printed, which country it was printed in and how did it affect the foreign-exchange situation in the country,” Information Minister Eugene Lenn Nagbe told broadcaster Voice of America. The state doesn’t have its own mint.