Son of Liberia’s ex-president, 4 others charged over bank scandal

Former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Liberia Charles Sirleaf (C), the son of LIberia's former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is escorted outside the City Court of Monrovia on March 4, 2019, where he appeared in court and charged with economic sabotage following a probe into missing banknotes. (AFP / Zoom Dosso)
Updated 05 March 2019
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Son of Liberia’s ex-president, 4 others charged over bank scandal

  • Charles Sirleaf and cohorts are accused of economic sabotage, misuse of public money, among other criminal acts
  • Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa, was Liberia's president for 12 years

MONROVIA: Five once senior figures at the Liberian Central Bank, including the son of long-serving former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, were charged Monday with criminal conspiracy and “economic sabotage” following a probe into a banknote printing scandal.
A Monrovia court ordered former deputy governor Charles Sirleaf, ex-bank head Milton Weeks and bank official Dorbor Hagba to be held in jail pending the scheduling of their trial.
Another two suspects still being sought face similar charges over their handling of billions of Liberian dollars.
The crowded court heard that between 2016 and 2018, Sirleaf “purposely with wicked and criminal intent connived and conspired with other officials” to print local currency but also pocket some of the proceeds.
Judge Kennedy Peabody said Sirleaf would be charged “with the commission of economic sabotage, misuse of public money, property or records and theft and or illegal disbursement and expenditure of public money and criminal conspiracy.”
“Charles Sirleaf and his accomplices Milton Weeks and Dorbor Hagba, including defendants Richard Walker and Joseph Dennis who are at-large, are criminally liable (for) ... Liberian dollar banknotes brought into the country which cannot be accounted for by them.”
President George Weah separately expressed thanks to the country’s partners, especially the United States, for helping with the investigation.
“I wanted the Liberian people (to) know that we are transparent,” the president said in a statement.
“Whatever happens from (the) findings, we will follow it because in the process of getting information, a lot of things do come out,” he added.
“When everything is done, I hope Liberia will be in peace and people will not take to the streets again.”
Weah announced the probe in September into the handling of some 16 billion Liberian dollars ($99 million, 87 millions euros) destined for the central bank.
What exactly happened to the money remains unclear, with a report by the US investigative agency Kroll Associates saying the money arrived at the central bank but that there were failings at each stage of the process.
One of the world’s poorest countries, Liberia has been struggling with rampant corruption which Weah vowed to combat when he took office a year ago.
Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa, was president for 12 years.
She gained widespread praise for stable governance following back-to-back civil wars which killed an estimated quarter of a million people.
In 2011, she was joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.


UK race to succeed Theresa May heats up with focus on Brexit

Updated 3 min 24 sec ago
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UK race to succeed Theresa May heats up with focus on Brexit

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday he is seeking to replace May
  • The best-known contestant for the Conservative leadership post is former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

LONDON: The race to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May is heating up, the field of Conservative contenders is quickly growing and the focus is squarely on how to handle Brexit.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Saturday he is seeking to replace May, joining several others who have announced they will run to become the Conservative party’s next leader, and by default, Britain’s new prime minister.
May announced Friday she plans to step down as Conservative Party leader on June 7 and remain as a caretaker prime minister while the party chooses a new leader in a contest that officially kicks off the following week.
She plans to remain as party leader through US President Donald Trump’s upcoming state visit and the 75th D-Day anniversary celebrations on June 6.
Her successor will have to try to complete Brexit — a task that May failed to deliver during her three years in office. While she succeeded in striking a divorce deal with the European Union, the plan was defeated three times in Parliament by British lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
The EU extended Britain’s departure date to Oct. 31 but there still is no consensus among British lawmakers about how or even if the country should leave the bloc.
Even before a new leader is chosen, the Conservative Party is expected to fare poorly when the results of the European Parliament election in Britain are announced Sunday night.
The best-known contestant for the Conservative leadership post is former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has said he will take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 even if no deal has been reached with EU leaders.
Johnson’s willingness to back a no-deal Brexit is already causing some ripples.
Another Conservative contender, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, said Saturday that he could not serve in a Cabinet under Johnson if Johnson wins. Stewart says he could not work for a leader who is comfortable with the idea of a no-deal Brexit.
Stewart complained that Johnson said in a private meeting several weeks ago that he would not push for a no-deal departure but appears to have changed course completely.
Many economists and business leaders have warned that a no-deal departure would have a drastically negative impact on Britain’s economy and also hurt its European neighbors.
The field is likely to grow to about a dozen candidates, with a winner expected to be chosen by mid or late July. Senior Conservatives including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom are among those considering a leadership run.
The Conservative Party chooses its leaders in a two-step process. First there’s a series of votes among the party’s legislators to establish two top contenders, then those names are submitted to a nationwide vote by about 120,000 party members.
The winner becomes party leader and prime minister, although the opposition Labour Party is warning of an immediate challenge to the new leader with an eye toward forcing an early general election.
John McDonnell, Labour’s economic spokesman, told the BBC on Saturday the party would push a no-confidence vote against the new prime minister right away.
“We believe any incoming prime minister in these circumstances should go to the country anyway and seek a mandate,” McDonnell said.
An earlier Labour Party attempt to force an early election failed in January when May’s government survived a no-confidence vote.
The UK’s next general election is set for 2022 unless there is a government collapse.