Liberian ministers have denied a claim that tens of millions of dollars had disappeared from state coffers, seeking to douse widespread public anger after a government probe sparked speculation that vast sums destined for the central bank had gone missing.
The impoverished west African country has been gripped by the scandal, which broke this week when the country’s information minister suggested that an official inquiry had been launched in August into the whereabouts of some 15 billion Liberian dollars ($97 million, 83 million euros).
Authorities this week imposed travel bans on 15 people, including the son of ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as part of the probe, which made headlines across the country, stoking public ire and even inspiring a popular new song by Liberian rapper Kpanto entitled “Bring Our Container Back”.
But in public statements both the minister of finance and the minister of justice said Thursday that the inquiry was into whether sums of money brought into the country had been properly declared, not whether it had disappeared.
“I am saying that there is no missing money. No one is looking for billions of dollars,” said Finance Minister Samuel Tweah on local radio, as several groups prepared to hold demonstrations on the issue in the country.
He also appealed for people not to “listen to what the information minister is saying”, as cracks appear in the government, led by President George Weah who took over in January vowing to crack down on corruption.