21:13 GMT +316 October 2018
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    Into Thin Air: $104 Million in Banknotes Go Missing in Liberia

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    Corruption is not specifically a punishable crime under Liberian law. When the last president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, took office in 2006, she announced that corruption was "public enemy number one."

    Shipping containers containing the equivalent of $104 million in Liberian banknotes or five percent of Liberia’s gross domestic product, ordered by the Central Bank from printers in Sweden and China, vanished without a trace shortly after they arrived in the country, the local newspaper Front Page Africa reported.

    President George Weah’s government has blamed the previous administration of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

    However, even though government officials said that the containers had arrived in November when Sirleaf was still in office, leaked shipping documents from the port indicate that the cargo was cleared in February and March of this year, after the new administration of President George Weah had taken over.

    Sirleaf, who handed the reins to Weah in January, angrily dismissed the allegations.

    “It is most unfortunate that the [government] would give false information that wickedly impugns the reputation of past officials and by extension the country itself,” she said.

    Fifteen officials, including Charles Sirleaf, the former Central Bank governor and son of Ellen Sirleaf, have been barred from leaving the country as part of an ongoing investigation.

    The opposition demands an independent probe, with Alexander Cummings, who leads the pro-democracy Alternative National Congress party, warning that the flood of new notes into the market would exacerbate the country's economic downturn.

    “You’ve excess money going after goods and services. Inflation is going to increase. The price of everything is going to go up,” he said.

    The Liberian dollar has fallen 20 percent against the US dollar since George Weah, the former FIFA Player of the Year, took office in January, and runaway inflation is making life difficult for ordinary Liberians.

    It’s been a rough start for President Weah, and is seriously straining the support of his many fans, who had high expectations for his government. It has international observers worried once again about this fragile country.

    Liberia enjoyed 12 years of peace under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but hopes for an economic revival after back-to-back civil wars tore the country apart between 1989 and 2003 were dashed by slumping commodity prices, hitting the key exports iron ore and rubber.

    READ MORE: WHO Declares End of Recent Ebola Virus Outbreak in Liberia

    The West African country was also left reeling from the impact of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, which left some 4,800 people dead.

    Ex-soccer star George Weah gained victory in Liberia's presidential run-off in December 2017, defeating his opponent, Vice President Joseph Boakai.

    Related:

    WTO Welcomes Liberia as New Member
    Soccer Star George Weah Wins Liberia Presidential Run-Off - Election Commission
    Tags:
    shipping containers, banknotes, disappearance, corruption, George Weah, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia
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