Liberian bankers charged after probe into missing millions

World

MONROVIA (Reuters) – The son of Liberia’s ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, an ex-central bank governor and current bank official were charged with economic sabotage late on Monday after investigations uncovered evidence of possible malpractice by the regulator.

The case is the latest twist in a long-running scandal prompted initially by the feared disappearance of newly printed banknotes worth $100 million en route to the central bank – the equivalent of around 5 percent of the west African nation’s gross domestic product.

Investigations by the Liberian government and the U.S. embassy last week established that the cash had indeed been delivered to the central bank.

However, the separate reports of the government and the U.S. embassy also highlighted possible discrepancies in the management of banknotes. The government also said a separate batch of banknotes worth $16.5 million remained unaccounted for.

Charles Sirleaf, who served as deputy governor of the central bank during his mother’s presidency, was arrested shortly after the release of the reports last Thursday, along with the bank’s former governor Milton Weeks and its current director of banking, Dorbor Hagba.

They were charged with multiple offences during a public court appearance on Monday evening. These included economic sabotage, misuse of public funds and criminal conspiracy.

The court said Sirleaf and his former colleagues had printed extra banknotes for “their personal use and benefit”.

Sirleaf is expected to appear in court later today. Lawyers for him and the other two defendants did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The central bank was also not available for comment. All three men have denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Gareth Jones

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