October 2, 2018 / 8:39 PM / in 2 months

Liberia central bank denies it lost $100 million

FILE PHOTO: A view shows the headquarters of the Central Bank of Liberia in Monrovia, Liberia September 19, 2018. Picture taken September 19, 2018. REUTERS/James Giahyue/File Photo

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberia’s central bank did not lose more than $100 million in newly printed notes, its governor said on Tuesday, disputing prior government statements that have sparked outrage and a federal investigation.

The information minister said last month that two separate shipments of cash containing a total of $104 million — or about 5 percent of the west African nation’s gross domestic product — went missing over the past year.

The scandal has saddled President George Weah with his biggest political crisis since he took office in January. Weah ordered an investigation and more than 30 former bank officials were barred from leaving the country.

But in a statement on Tuesday, central bank governor Nathaniel Patray said an internal audit found that all the notes shipped from the Swedish printer between 2016 and 2018 were properly accounted for and stored in the bank’s reserve vaults.

Thousands of Liberians protested on the streets of the capital Monrovia last week.

Among those hit with travel bans are former central bank governor Milton Weeks and Charles Sirleaf, the son of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Weeks has said he had nothing to do with the missing cash and is cooperating with investigators. Reuters has not been able to reach Charles Sirleaf or his mother for comment.

Reporting By James Giahyue; Writing by Cooper Inveen; Editing by Aaron Ross and Robin Pomeroy

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