Written and investigated by Ajyei Bonsu, Alexander Nyeneken, Abdulazeez Raheem, Lincoln Bazman and Freelance Investigative Reporters (Becktor Williams & Victor Allen)
LIBERIA – One would argue that the Liberian Passport Saga-Gate is clearly an issue of the past and that the country, Liberia and its people, as well as the people of the subregion and some members of the international community have moved on.
On the contrary, the Liberian passports scandal has not gone into oblivion for Investigative Journalists (i.e. Allen, Bonsu, Bazman, Nyeneken, Raheem and Williams) and numerous patriotic and well-intentioned Liberians and perhaps the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), African Union (AU), members of the international community and the United States Embassy near Monrovia, especially considering the dark reality of the Liberian ECOWAS Passports being illegally acquired or possessed by individuals or groups associated with money laundering, trafficking, terrorism, etc.
There is no ambiguity that a country’s passport remains one of the most important documents. If such document is not properly secured, acquired, legally distributed and accounted for, it has the propensity to fall into the hands of criminals, drug cartels and terrorist groups who are bend toward causing the most damage to human lives and properties. Isn’t it a common knowledge that the Liberian ECOWAS Passport scandal, if not thoroughly and independently investigated and all those involve be brought to justice, the illicit trafficking of such a vitae document will continue thereby putting the national security of Liberia and its people and those in the subregion, along with the United States and her allies at risk?
It is evident since Hon. Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., Liberia’s top diplomat took over the leadership of the Foreign Ministry, Liberians have seen a reduction in the cost of passports, a shorter time frame in the processing and receiving of one’s passport, as well as other security measures, which according to sources at the Foreign Ministry are being circumvented by individuals with links to the passport scandal at the Foreign Ministry and other individuals in higher positions of authority within in President Weah’s led government.
Despite Hon. Kemayah’s best efforts, the fact remains that the cloud of the passport scandal still hangs over the ministry and Liberia at large. The illegal shipment, distributions, and sale of the Liberia ECOWAS Passports continue with Deweh Gray (Deputy Minister for Legal Affairs at the Foreign Ministry), Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, Henry B. Fahnbulleh (Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister) and others according to sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other people with knowledge of the illegal acquisition and distribution of the Liberian passports.
According to individuals with knowledge of the story and later confirmed by a team of investigators, Deweh Gray sporadically ships hundreds of Liberian ECOWAS Passports to numerous individuals in various countries through the Robert International Airport under the disguise of delivering these passports for Liberians in the care of the Liberian embassies and/or consulates in these countries. And these passports are sent through unsecured carriers, which make it all the best known to be unofficial and business as usual.
These passports (mainly ordinary passports, which are in demand) are taken outside of the country for subsequent distributions by selected or designated friends of Deweh Gray with no known or legal employment with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or who are not destinated Passport Officers. At the RIA, security officers or Immigration Officers at times stopped and questioned these individuals (friends of Deweh Gray) with huge number of passports, but the officers later get a call to stand down by Deweh Gray and allow the passports to go through. Evidence exists at the Robert International Airport regarding the illegal movement of the Liberian passports.
Hon. Kemayah will need to “Build Back Better” to quote the political slogan of President Joe Biden, than Candidate Biden of the Democratic Party in the United States (US). On the other hand, the US courts are going through legal proceeds of cases related or directly involving Former President Trump, lawyers associated with President Trump on the issue of the US elections being stolen, the January 6 incident, etc.
With all the alarms bells going off regarding Liberian Passports scandal, the Liberian legislature has failed to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the Weah led government has refused to set up an impartial body to investigate the passport scandal according to independent thinkers of his (President Weah’s) government who prefer to remain anonymous.
The question is, does Hon. Kemayah has the political will or courage to clean house, without offending allies of Deweh’s Gray with very closed ties to President Weah? Most Liberians are asking, what must happen before a full independent investigation is conducted to bring all those involved in the passport scandal to justice and safeguard the national security of Liberia, countries of the subregion, the United States of America and many other countries?
After months of investigative journalism, with consolidated and coordinated efforts by investigative journalists (Allen, Bazman, Bonsu, Raheem, Nyeneken and Williams) regarding the Liberian Passports scandal, our investigation reviews and has been confirmed by people with direct know of the story that 134 boxes (250 blank booklets/passports per box) containing a total of 33,500 blank Liberia ECOWAS booklets/passports were discovered by a COVID-19 Team in the employed of the Government of Liberia during the movements of COVID-19 related materials at a warehouse in the National Port Authority (NPA) in Monrovia.
The workers of the COVID-19 Team had gone to receive their supplies from the warehouse at the NPA when they stumbled or came across 134 boxes of Liberian ECOWAS Passports. The 134 boxes of blank passports included both ordinary and privileged passports. There were 23 boxes of privileged passports (I.e., Official, Diplomatic & Service), which amounted to 5,750 blank privileged passports (23×250 passports per box). For the ordinary blank passports, there were 111 boxes, which amounted to 27,750. The total of 27,750 Ordinary Liberian ECOWAS blank passports were calculated as such: 111 × 250 = 27,750. Note: Each box contains 250 blank booklets/passports according to people familiar with the story and confirmed by our team of investigators.
The Liberia National Security Agency (NSA) was immediately notified of the passports found in the boxes at the warehouse in NPA according to people knowledge of the story. The Director of NSA, Mr. James Hernic Pearson, II, Deputy Director of NSA, Mr. Sam T. Sayon and the Assistant Director for Operations of NSA, Mr. Ernest T. Tarpeh, Sr. were later seen in the warehouse at the NPA. According to sources, Mr. Tarpeh had not been doing very well and had just returned from his sick bed at the hospital about four days earlier.
Once at the NPA, NSA Director Pearson, NSA Deputy Director Sayon and Assistant NSA Director for Operations Tarpeh took inventory of the passports. Later a call was placed to Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley regarding the smuggled passports. Ex-Minister Findley informed them (NSA Director Pearson, NSA Deputy Director Sayon and Assistant NSA Director for Operations Tarpeh) that the passports had incorrect series numbers and needed to be taken back according to people familiar with the story. It is not clear as to why Ex-Minister Findley was called, and it is also unclear if similar calls were placed to Deweh Gray (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Legal Affairs) and/or Henry B. Fahnbulleh (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs). Up to press time, it is uncertain if Minister Kemayah was notified of the 33,500 passports found at the warehouse.
Director Pearson of the NSA took the 134 boxes of passports, totaling 33,500 (5,750 + 27,750) blank Liberian ECOWAS passports from the warehouse and is currently in his possession according to people familiar with story. Within the corridors of the Foreign Ministry and inner circle of top government officials, it is alleged that Mr. Ernest T. Tarpeh, Sr., Assistant NSA Director for Operations at the NSA and the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Legal Affairs, Ms. Deweh Gray are lovers according to people familiar with the story. It is important to point out that Assistant Director of Operations Tarpeh led the team to arrest Former Passport Director Andrew D. Wonplo at his house during the early days of the passport saga/gate. Poetic justice for Mr. Wonplo?
Moreover, Deweh Gray, Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Findley and Deputy Minister Henry B. Fahnbulleh are key players and architects of the passports scandal based on Former Passport Director Wonplo’s public testimonies and accordingly to sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The 33,500 blank Liberia ECOWAS booklets/passports, which were found at the warehouse in the NPA were smuggled or illegally brought into the country (Liberia) through the instructions and knowledge of Ms. Deweh Gray, Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Findley and others with assistance from Mr. Charles K. Boakye (Formerly of Buck Press) according to sources and/or people with knowledge of the story. Currently, Deweh Gray, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, Henry B. Fahnbulleh and other individuals with close link to the smuggled or illegal passports are doing all they can to NOT let this information see the light of day.
Based on investigations, as well as people familiar with the story, these 33,500 blank Liberian booklets/passports were the last batch of passports that were illegally brought into the country (Liberia) during the early days of the passport saga or passport upheaval, when Former Passport Director Wonplo was initially suspended from office pending investigation.
Ms. Deweh Gray, Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Findley, Henry B. Fahnbulleh and others were positioned to continue with the Express Service by making sure all ordinary passports were processed for a fee of $100.00 United States Dollars (USD) including the 111 boxes of ordinary blank booklets/passports, totaling 27,750 found at the warehouse. This transaction of 27,750 at an Express Service fee of US$100 each, will generate the total amount of US$ 2,775,000 (Two Million Seven Hundred and Seventy-five Thousand United States Dollars).
According to previous reporting and confirmed by people familiar with story, “whenever a passport is sold for a fee of $100.00 USD, it is expected that OeSD (An Australian based company that Buck Press worked with to manufacture the passports for the Government of Liberia) collects $25.00 USD but in actuality, OeSD receives $18.00 USD per passport booklet and $7.00 USD per passport booklet goes to various parties (i.e. Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Findley, Deweh Gray, Charles Boakye, and others) of the illegal deal. From the remaining $75.00 USD, the government gets her regular $15.00 USD. The balance $60.00 USD on each passport booklet with NO ACCOUNTABILITY on it. So, it goes somewhere else. This amount is yet to be accounted for.” The privileged passports (I.e., Official, Diplomatic & Service) are even sold for US$25,000 or more according to people knowledge of the story.
Deweh Gray, ex-Minister Findley, Henry B. Fahnbulleh & others aborted or paused further movements of these 33,500 illegal or smuggled passports/ booklets due to the presence and/or actions of Hon. Kemayah, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. According to reports, Minister Kemayah renegotiated the contract with Buck Press, which Deweh Gray and Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Findley had attempted to cancel but failed.
Meanwhile, both Deweh Gray and Ex-Minister Findley paused Buck Press’ operations in Liberia and deemed it “Bad Deal” as reported on July 22, 2019, in Front Page Africa, captioned: “Liberia Poised to Cancel Bad Deal with Ghanaian Firm, Milking Country Over Biometric Passports.” This announcement by Ex-Minister Findley was all part of their plan to get Buck Press and Former Director Wonplo out of the way so that they (Deweh Gray, Ex-Minister Findley and others) can continue smuggling more passports into country with the help of Mr. Charles K. Boakye (formerly of Buck Press) for their personal financial gain according to sources with knowledge of the story.
Meanwhile, at the time of renegotiation of the contract with Buck Press, Mr. Kemayah (the new Minister of Foreign Affairs) received information of the inventory of blank passports currently in store according to sources familiar with the story. At this juncture, the last batch of the “smuggled Passports” were still in transit to Liberia. And any attempt on the part of Ms. Deweh Gray, Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley and Deputy Minister Henry B. Fahnbulleh to inform Minister Kemayah of the passports would have required them to explain the nature of the transactions regarding the passports, which will ultimately implicate them and further authenticate former Passport Director Wonplo’s testimony of their nefarious dealings according to people familiar with the story. This was a risk they did not want to take. It is very important to reiterate that, neither Deweh Gray nor Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley and Henry B. Fahnbulleh informed Minister Kemayah of the 33,500 smuggled passports found at the at the warehouse of the NPA according to people with knowledge of the story. It is also worth noting that based on the renegotiated contract, Buck Press was now clothed with the legal authority and/or with the full backing of Minister Kemayah to begin operations.
This was now clear to Team Deweh (Deweh Gray, Ex-Minister Gbehzohngar Findley and Henry B. Fahnbulleh) that the smuggled passports cannot be introduced into the system. Consequent of the above, those individuals (Deweh Gray, Gbehzohngar Findley, Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Charles K. Boakye and others) who were very instrumental in the acquisition and subsequent smuggling of the passports to Liberia are denying link to the blank booklets/passports and have been fighting to keep the information secret and looking for every opportunity to physically destroyed the passports. The passports in question are still believed to be in the hands of NSA Director Pearson. Meanwhile, Deweh Gray, Findley and their close confidants are spending money on the matter to keep the issues and evidence under wraps. With the passports now in the possession of NSA Director Pearson, what next?
Meanwhile, Mr. Charles Boakye (Formerly of Buck Press) claimed that the Foreign Ministry through Deweh Gray made the request, which was also reported in the last publication of October 29, 2020, but Team Gray (Deweh Gray, Henry Fahnbulleh and Findley) continued to deny and are doing everything in their power to conceal the matter, especially since Minister Kemayah was misled or never informed of the smuggled passports by Team Gray according to sources. Deweh Gray and her team did not come around to inform Minister Kemayah because he (Minister Kemayah) usually claimed that Deputy Minister Fahnbulleh did not provide any turnover documents to him (Minister Kemayah) when he assumed leadership of the Foreign Ministry according to a source with knowledge of the story.
Is this statement by Minister Kemayah a means to avoid addressing key issues confronting the ministry or regarding the passport scandal? Now, it is apparent according to a source with knowledge of the story, if Minister Kemayah was informed of the smuggled passports, it would have been a disaster for Team Gray and further authenticate former Passport Director, Andrew D. Wonplo’s claim that he was setup to take the fall because he (Former Passport Director Wonplo refused to go along with the reprehensible or criminal plan of Findley & Deweh Gray as was previously reported in October of 2020.
Our team (Investigative Journalists & Freelance Investigative Reporters) on the Liberia Passport Saga-Gate are making every effort to arrange an interview with the Former Passport Director Wonplo or request of him to do an audio of his reaction to this new and damaging evidence found at the NPA. Meanwhile, it has been very difficult to contact or locate Mr. Wonplo.
As was stated in 2020, the investigation continues unabated.
The Liberian ECOWAS Passport indeed remains one of the most important documents of Liberia, considering money laundering, trafficking, terrorism, etc.
Therefore, it is prudent and in the interest of the Liberian people, the security of Liberia and multiple countries which accept Liberia ECOWAS passports, mainly the United States of America, to call upon the Weah led government to set up an independent body to investigate and resolve the Liberian passport scandal. Source: Knewsonline