February 28, 2019 / 8:10 PM / 24 days ago

Probe finds Liberia's 'missing' $100 mln in central bank vaults - U.S. Embassy

MONROVIA, Feb 28 (Reuters) - An investigation into the suspected disappearance of $100 million in newly printed notes en route to the Liberian central bank has found that the cash never went missing, the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia said on Thursday.

Liberia has been gripped by the scandal since last September, when a minister said a shipping container of cash worth the equivalent of around 5 percent of the west African nation’s gross domestic product had disappeared.

Following a request from the government, the United States commissioned investigators to find out what had happened. Washington has worked with the Liberian government on fiscal transparency and governance issues in the past.

The results of the investigation, published on Thursday, “found no information to support allegations that a container of banknotes went missing”, the embassy said in a statement.

The investigation by risk consultancy Kroll confirmed that the new banknotes totalling 15.5 billion Liberian dollars ($96 million) were delivered to central bank vaults, it said.

However the embassy said the Kroll report raised concerns about the accuracy of the central bank’s internal records, identifying systemic weaknesses and what it said were “shortcomings in Liberia’s fiscal and monetary management processes that are longstanding and continue to the present day”.

The central bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The saga saddled President George Weah with his biggest crisis since he took office a year ago with politicians and civil society groups across Liberia calling for more transparency.

Releasing the results of its own investigation into the case, the government on Thursday also confirmed that the 15.5 billion Liberian dollars had been delivered to the vaults.

However, its report said the amount originally shipped from the currency printers was around $16.5 million more than what was placed in the vaults. Consequently, that sum has not yet been fully accounted for, it said. ($1 = 161.1000 Liberian dollars) (Reporting by James Giahyue; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Alison Williams)

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