By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
The phrase, “CORPUS DELICTI,” is a Latin phrase in law which means, “”Body Of The Crime.” In other words, it is” the fact of as transgression.” It is also referred to as ”the material substance on which a crime has been committed; the physical evidence of a crime.”
Today, there is an ongoing case by the Liberian government against some former officials of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), relative to the printing of new banknotes to replace existing mutilated or “tear, tear” banknotes on the Liberian market. Already, these officials, including former Governor Milton weeks, have been indicted.
A portion of the indictment reads:
The Grand Jurors for the County of Montserrado, Republic of Liberia, upon Oath hereby find more probably than not, that, David M. Farhat, Melissa A. Emeh,Elsie Dossen-Badio and Kolli Tamba, members of the Board of Governors, Milton Weeks, (Former Executive Governor) Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Dorbor M. Hagba, former Director of Finance, Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Richard H.Walker, former Director for Banking, Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), and Mr. Joseph Dennis, former Director of Internal Audit (CBL), and members of the Board of Directors named inter alia, all of the City of Monrovia, Republic of Liberia, did intentionally, purposely, and knowingly commit the crime of Economic Sabotage: Fraud on the Internal Revenue of Liberia/Misuse of Public Money, Property, or Record/Theft/Illegal Disbursement of Public Money in violation of Chapter 15, Sub-Chapter F, Section 15.80, 15.81, and 15.82 of the New Penal Law of the Republic of Liberia as showeth to wit:
- That between the period as herein stated above in Count One (1) of this indictment without restatement, Defendants David M. Farhat, Melissa A. Emeh, Elsie Dossen-Badio and Kolli Tamba, members of the Board of Governors, Milton A. Weeks, Dorbor M. Hagba, Richard H. Walker, and Joseph Dennis, Executive Governor, Director, Finance Department, Director for Operations and Deputy Director, Internal Audit, respectively, all of the Central Bank of Liberia, did knowingly and intentionally collude and conspire to defraud the Government of Liberia by executing a contract to print Liberian dollar banknotes in the amount of LD 10,000,000,000, at the cost of USS1O, 121. 689.20, but went ahead without any justification and paid Crane Currency the total amount of US$10, 555, 587.12 US$433, 898.14 dollars in excess.
- That though the total amount of Liberian dollar banknotes contracted by the CBL to be printed by Crane Currency under the second contract was LD 10,000,000,000, and the Defendants had reported that only 10,359,750,000 Liberian dollar banknotes including the excess resulting from “practicalities of banknotes printing” were printed; the packing lists reviewed by the investigators established that 13, 004, 750, 000 Liberian Dollar banknotes were printed, delivered by air and sea, received, logged and placed in the vaults of the CBL in July 2016 to February 2018. This leaves a variance of 2, 645, 000, and 000 for which the Defendants have failed to account.
- That the Defendants, knowing that the total money printed by Crane Currency under the second contract was 13, 004, 750, 000 Liberian Dollars which accounts for an excess of 2, 645, 000, 000, they proceeded to collude, conspire, and connive, and did collude, conspire, and connive to defraud the government of Liberia by criminally concealing and understating the excess amount printed, and recorded only 359, 750, 000 Liberian Dollars, excluding the 2.6bn, and they did steal, take away, and exercise unauthorized control over said 2.6bn at the detriment of the government of the Republic of Liberia.”
Again, this piece is not to look into the merit and demerit of the case. It is all to bring to light the issue of the whereabouts of the money printed for which these former officials have been indicted and are to face prosecution.
Unarguably, on this matter, the corpus delicti is the money printed and my basic concern, as I stated earlier, is the whereabouts of this billons of Liberian banknotes which are not seen on the market or in the banking sector, but the same ‘tear, tear money” for which the new banknotes were printed.
It is a known fact that the former Governor Nathaniel Patray confirmed prior to leaving the bank that the bank was in possession of the printed banknotes. But the million dollar question is, if this is true, then, where are the banknotes? The confirmation by the bank then came in the wake of a publication that the money was missing.
As the government presses for trial after a Nolle Prosequi, I still maintain that this piece, since the matter is sub judice, is not to look at the merit and demerit of it, but to raise the issue of the banknotes not being on the market. A Nolle Prosequi, in an ongoing litigation, is “a legal notice that a lawsuit or prosecution has been abandoned.”
As the government continues to press charges, I feel that something should
be done about these banknotes, especially in view of claim that the banknotes are in homes and not in circulation, something that continues to affect some aspects of the country’s monetary function.
My fear is that the CBL intends to print banknotes to cater for the same purpose, for which the previous ones printed were intended, but this may not solve the problem of replacing the unavailable banknotes, as it is believed that the banknotes are in homes. I hint to the wise is quite sufficient.
I Rest My Case.