A scenario that unfolded Wednesday, 25 February involving two officers of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization or BIN and a Lebanese national in Central Monrovia has exposed the depth of extortion by BIN officers against aliens.
A Lebanese businessman in Monrovia Hassam Helshall, owner of the Vita company, is the latest victim of broad day extortion suffered at the hands of BIN officers.
“Listen to me, if my document is not correct, I can’t solve the problem in the street. We can give them something; they can ask us for something; you know, in Liberia if you need to solve something, you need to pay,” Hassam Halshell narrated.
According to him, he was arrested yesterday for loitering the street without legal document at the interception of Randall and Gurley Street by two unidentified BIN officers, one of them dressed in the official BIN brown uniform with a brown bearer on his head, while the other officer wore color clothes or mufti.
The BIN officers asked the Lebanese businessman to walk with them to the BIN Headquarters on Broad Street, but he resisted on grounds that his Lebanese brother was bringing his document.
But the BIN officers maintained they had called at headquarters for reinforcement in order to take Hassam for questioning.
While in the midst of argument, a white pickup marked BIN with RL plate arrival on the scene and a senior officer disembarked and instructed the two junior officers to get into the car with the Lebanese.
However, the officer, who wore the color clothes refused to get onboard and attempted to escape.
“Look! Get in the car and let’s go to the office or else, I will disgrace you here”, the senior BIN officer further ordered.
Eventually, the two BIN officers got in the car alone with the Lebanese and the driver drove away, but stopped later put the Lebanese businessman down and took off for the office.
When The NewDawn inquired why they let him off the car, Hassan Halshell said, “This is Liberia”, and added that he is proprietor of the Vita Stores around Monrovia and has been in Liberia since 2006, always solving his problem with BIN officers in the street.
Hassam narrated that he always paid US$250 to a BIN officer identified only as Phillip, who is processing his documents through his cashier, Saah Toe.
But when the BIN was contacted through its Public Affairs Officer, Abraham Dorley, the senior officer, who asked the two junior officers and the Lebanese man to board the BIN vehicle, admitted that Hassam Halshell is his personal friend and he has been processing his immigration documents.
“Hassan Halshell is my personal friend and I’m processing his document cause he just coming to Liberia and can’t speak good English, when he called me, I ask he to give the phone to the two officers that arrested him but they refuse to listen to me,” senior who refuse to indentifies himself admitted.
For his part Mr. Abraham Dorley public Affair Director after secret talk with the senior officer who said Hassan Halshell was his personal friend, told journalists that the two officers was operating illegally and had no right to arrest anybody unless they are giving order by BIN authority.
By Ben P. Wesee