MONROVIA (Reuters) - The U.S. Embassy in Liberia said on Wednesday it had asked forensic investigators to carry out a preliminary probe into the possible disappearance of $100 million in newly printed notes in the impoverished West African nation.
The currency scandal has sparked outrage and confusion in Liberia, where the central bank has denied a report by the information minister that the cash - equivalent to about 5 percent of gross domestic product - went missing over the past year.
In late September, the government said it had sought U.S. help in investigating the whereabouts of the cash. Washington has worked with the Liberian government on fiscal transparency and governance issues in the past.
In a statement, the U.S Embassy said it had asked firms specializing in forensic investigations to establish the basic facts of the case and determine if a broader mission was needed.
“Such a report would be the most credible and effective means to quickly determine the scale of the problem,” it said, adding that the results of the investigation would be made public.
“We urge all Liberians to remain patient,” it said.
The scandal has saddled President George Weah with his biggest political crisis since he took office in January. Weah has ordered an investigation and more than 30 former bank officials were barred from leaving the country.
Earlier in October, the 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.
Reporting by James Giahyue; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Peter Cooney