*Over Passport Scandal, Says former Diplomat
*Calls for Independent Investigation
Sacramento, CA: May 18, 2022- In the wake of President George M. Weah’s order suspending the issuance of Liberian diplomatic passports, a former Liberian diplomat is calling on the President to establish an independent commission to investigate the major passport scandal that has the potential to turn Liberia into a pariah state at the international level.
Mr. Gabriel I.H. Williams, a former Liberian diplomat to the United States, expressed alarm that the recent discovery of Liberian ECOWAS diplomatic passports in the possession of several money launderers and international criminals projects an image of a country that is turning into a criminal enterprise in the eyes of the international community.
On May 10, 2022, President Weah ordered an immediate halt to the issuance of Liberian diplomatic passports following a newspaper report that a Liberian diplomatic passport was discovered in the home of one Sheik Bassirou Kante, following his arrest for money laundering conspiracy by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States.
Mr. Kante reportedly had a “close personal relationship” with Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor. In a press statement, Mr. Williams noted that while President Weah is commended for acting swiftly by suspending the issuance of Liberian ECOWAS diplomatic passports after this diabolical act against the state was reported, President Weah needs to do more to inspire public confidence at the local and international levels.
Mr. Williams is, therefore, calling on President Weah to establish an independent commission to investigate the passport scandal rather than instructing the Foreign Minister to submit a report to him. The former Liberian diplomat, who served for nearly ten years at his country’s mission in the United States, noted that criminalization of the Liberian ECOWAS passports has the potential to tarnish Liberia’s international image and create serious problems for Liberian and ECOWAS citizens traveling to other parts of the world.
“Liberian or ECOWAS citizens traveling around the world do not deserve to be harassed at international airports because they bear a passport from a country or a region that is blacklisted,” he added. He indicated that the passport scandal is reminiscent of the era of President Charles Taylor, which led to Liberia being internationally blacklisted as a criminal state.
He added that during the Taylor era, many illegal international drug and arms dealers, money launderers, among others from the criminal underworld who operated in Liberia, were found to be in possession of Liberian diplomatic passports.
“Therefore, we are deeply disturbed by reports pointing to a growing list of international criminals, including money launderers, who are associated with Vice President Taylor, ex-wife of former President Taylor.
Why is Vice President Taylor closely associated with international criminals as reported, cognizant of the fact that such association could jeopardize the national security of Liberia and by extension international security?”
According to the former diplomat, when he published an Open Letter to President Weah on October 4, 2020, calling for an independent investigation following reports of the disappearance of more than four thousand Liberian ECOWAS passports at the Foreign Ministry, no action was taken at the time to address the problem.
Mr. Williams added that the government declined to investigate during that time, and now Liberia is in a major scandal with grave international implications, which has forced President Weah to suspend the issuance of diplomatic passports.
As another example that Liberia’s ECOWAS passports may have fallen in the hands of international criminals, Mr. Williams disclosed that following his Open Letter to President Weah, he was contacted by a source who informed him that the intelligence agency of a European country was investigating a Ghanaian businessman who was wanted for prosecution in that country for criminal activities.
He added that the Ghanaian businessman, who was reportedly spotted in Liberia, was later found to be in possession of a Liberian diplomatic passport when he was searched, and he admitted to being linked to a top Liberian government official.
“In view of the foregoing, Liberia risks becoming a pariah state and possible international sanctions being imposed on relevant individuals or the country, if the passport scandal is not addressed in an atmosphere of transparency. Failure to be guided by the tragic examples of former President Charles Taylor, who is serving a prison sentence in Europe, could lead to a repeat of history,” the former Liberian diplomat concluded.