LIBERIA: CENTAL calls for the Speedy Release of Findings from Probe into Passport Saga

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The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has called on the Government of Liberia through the new leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to speed up investigation and release of findings into previous passport saga.

CENTAL welcomes the March 18, 2024, Press Statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister Sara Beysolow Nyanti ordered the suspension of the July 2023 revised passport regulation and reinstated the March 2016 regulation. The decision mandates the immediate return of all diplomatic, official, and service passports in the possession of individuals including Liberians and non-Liberians regardless of the duration of the validity period.

In a release issued in Monrovia, CENTAL’s Executive Director, Anderson D. Miamen said whilst the decision intends to address discrepancies in the issuance of Liberian passports is commendable, such effort should go in tandem with the speedy conclusion and publication of investigative findings into reported sale of diplomatic passports.

It can be recalled that in May 2022, President Weah halted the issuance of diplomatic passports and ordered an investigation into the issuance of diplomatic passports following a report that a Liberian diplomatic passport was found in the possession of Sheik Bassirou Kante who had been arrested in the United States for alleged money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud. However, the release furthered, that there is no indication as to the status of the said investigation nearly two years after the investigation was commissioned. The release noted that President Weah had instructed then Foreign Minister Maxwell Kemayah to report on the process involving issuance of Diplomatic Passport by May 17, 2022, the public is yet to know the outcome of the investigation.

As contained in CENTAL’s 2023 State of Corruption Report (SCORE) and other publications, scandals emanating from the use of Liberian Diplomatic passports by non-Liberians have been widespread. CENTAL’s SCORE uncovered reports that diplomatic passports were being sold for over US$200,000.00 (Two Hundred Thousand United States Dollars.

The release recalled that in a November 2022 report, it was revealed that a holder of a Liberian diplomatic passport, Samuel Kwame Arbekwah, committed suicide at the Istanbul International Airport in Turkey after he was reportedly arrested for drug trafficking.

Based on the shady history of the issuance of the Liberian diplomatic passport, the CENTAL release expressed full support of the latest move by the Government of Liberia to recall diplomatic and service passports and at the same time encouraged the new administration at the Ministry of Foreign affairs to fast track the release of findings from investigations into previous sagas.

“Investigations cannot remain inconclusive. Persons involved in the illicit sale of Liberian passports must be held to account. These actions when taken, will ensure that the sanctity of Liberian diplomatic, service, and ordinary, passports is restored”, the release said.

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