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Thursday, May 23, 2024

CENTAL CALLS ON LIBERIA GOVERNMENT TO SPEED UP INVESTIGATION AND RELEASE FINDINGS ON PASSPORT SCANDAL

Date:

MONROVIA – The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has urged the Government of Liberia, under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), to expedite the investigation into the previous passport scandal and release the findings to the public.

CENTAL has expressed its approval of the recent Press Statement issued by Minister Sara Beysolow Nyanti on March 18, 2024, which suspends the revised passport regulation from July 2023 and reinstates the March 2016 regulation. This decision necessitates the immediate return of all diplomatic, official, and service passports, regardless of their validity period, that are currently in the possession of individuals, including Liberians and non-Liberians.

In a press release issued in Monrovia, Anderson D. Miamen, the Executive Director of CENTAL, emphasized that while this decision is commendable in addressing the discrepancies in passport issuance, it should be accompanied by a prompt conclusion of the investigation and the subsequent publication of the findings regarding the alleged sale of diplomatic passports.

This call for action stems from an incident in May 2022, when President Weah suspended the issuance of diplomatic passports and initiated an investigation after a Liberian diplomatic passport was discovered in the possession of Sheik Bassirou Kante, who was arrested in the United States on charges of money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud. The press release reveals that almost two years have passed since the investigation was launched, but there have been no updates on its progress. It is noteworthy that President Weah had instructed the then Foreign Minister Maxwell Kemayah to report on the issuance process concerning Diplomatic Passports by May 17, 2022, yet the public remains uninformed about the outcome of the investigation.

As described in CENTAL’s 2023 State of Corruption Report (SCORE) and other publications, scandals related to the use of Liberian Diplomatic passports by non-Liberians have been widespread. The SCORE report discovered evidence of diplomatic passports being sold for more than $200,000 USD.

The press release also recalls a November 2022 incident in which a holder of a Liberian diplomatic passport, Samuel Kwame Arbekwah, allegedly committed suicide at Istanbul International Airport in Turkey after being arrested for drug trafficking.

Given the questionable past regarding the issuance of Liberian diplomatic passports, the CENTAL press release fully supports the government’s decision to recall diplomatic and service passports. Additionally, it urges the new administration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expedite the release of findings from the investigations into past scandals.

The release states, “Investigations cannot remain inconclusive. Individuals involved in the illegal sale of Liberian passports must be held accountable. These actions, when implemented, will restore the integrity of Liberian diplomatic, service, and ordinary passports.”

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