Liberia: Speed Up Passport Investigation

The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) urges the Boakai administration, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to speedily investigate the previous passport saga and release the findings to the public.

“CENTAL welcomes the recent decision of the government through MOFA ordering the return of all service and diplomatic passports, but we also urge them to speed up the investigation into the previous passport saga and release findings to the public.”

Executive Director Anderson Miamen urged this at a press conference held at his office in Sinkor, Monrovia, over the weekend.

CENTAL welcomes the March 18, 2024, Press Statement issued by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, suspending the July 2023 revised passport regulation and reinstating the March 2016 regulation, Mr. Miamen says.

According to him, 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 validity period.

He notes that while the decision 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 the reported sale of diplomatic passports.

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In May 2022, former President Weah halted the issuance of diplomatic passports and ordered an investigation into the issuance of diplomatic passports following report that a Liberian diplomatic passport was found in the possession of Sheik Bassirou Kante, who was subsequently arrested in the United States for alleged money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud.

CENTAL notes that there is no indication of the status of the said investigation, which was nearly two years after the investigation was commissioned.

Miamen recalls that former President Weah instructed then-French Minister Maxwell Kemayah to investigate and report on the process of issuance of Diplomatic Passports by May 17, 2022. Still, the public has yet to know the outcome of the investigation.

He pointed out that scandals emanating from the use of Liberian diplomatic passports by non-Liberians have been widespread, as contained in CENTAL’s 2023 State of Corruption Report (SCORE) and other publications.

He reveals that CENTAL’s SCORE uncovered reports that diplomatic passports were being sold for over US$200,000.00 (Two Hundred Thousand United States Dollars).

He reminds 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.

Miamen stresses that based on the shady history of the issuance of the Liberian diplomatic passport, the CENTAL expressed full support of the latest move by the Government of Liberia to recall diplomatic and service passports and 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 accountable. These actions, when taken, will ensure that the sanctity of Liberian diplomatic, service, and ordinary passports is restored”, he says.

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