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Passport chief dragged to court

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Under multiple charges, Liberia’s Passport Director Andrew D. Wonplo was disgracefully dragged before Monrovia City Court Thursday following investigation into his alleged involvement into a major passport scandal here that government says has resulted to the loss of US$25,000 in revenue.

Investigators’ probe into the scandal resulted to charges being brought against Mr. Wonplo and a Nigerian national defendant Adedoyin Emmanuel Atiro who has also allegedly been purporting as authority at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in awarding travel opportunities and receiving money from his victims.

The police here revealed that co-defendant Atiro’s action caused the Liberian government to loss revenues in the tune of US$100,000.00.
The Monrovia City Court was crowded Thursday afternoon, 15 August when defendants Wonplo and Atiro were brought forward under charges, as their followers and well-wishers were seen sharing tears.

According to police charge sheet, defendants Wonplo and Atiro were arrested on 13 August for questioning.Police say during the month of July 2019 and before defendant Wonplo’s arrest in August, 4250 pieces of blank Liberian Passports were entrusted to the Passport and Visas Bureau which is under the accused supervision as Passport Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Out of the 4250 pieces of blank passports, investigators indicate that 4180 pieces recorded issued to applicants (accounted for) while 70 pieces were reported damaged.

Additionally, police say out of the 70 pieces of passports reported to be damaged, 66 pieces could be traced while four pieces could not be traced or accounted for.

Further, police say 17 pieces of birth certificates were issued to Wennie M. Cooper, Alex M. Washington, III, Robert L. Sorsor, Satta Njai, Christiana Sorsor, Brooklyn I. Tarnue, David R. Mawuli and Thomas Tokpah.

Others to whom the 17 birth certificates were issued according to police include Hawa Tokpah, Aisha Kamara, Naomi A. Roberts, Isatu M. Sheriff, Sarah K. Torkpah, William E. Pennoh and Musa M. Kamara.

The charge sheet says seven Liberian passports belonging to Lawrence Carneh, Tidi A. Ware, Ishmael O.M. Bility, Asha Kromah, Najet S. Akar, Melisa S. Gilayeneh and Philsian T. Doe were confiscated from defendant Wonplo’s home during a search and seizure exercise sanctioned by court.

Police say while the certificates confiscated from Wonplo’s home constitute part of documents in obtaining passport, these instruments remain public documents and must remain at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), but not at the home of the defendant.

Meanwhile police say in the presence of defendant Wonplo’s lawyer Cllr. James Kumeh, the accused denied the allegation of passports scandal, but allegedly admitted that the birth certificates and the seven passports were confiscated from his home.He faces charges of economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property and tampering with public records.

For his part, co-defendant Atiro is charged with theft of property, forgery, impersonating officials, economic sabotage and criminal solicitation.Defendant Atiro was allegedly engaged in soliciting money from Liberians and non – Liberians, purporting as someone who had authority at MOFA in awarding travel opportunities to applicants who desire to travel.

He allegedly informed many of his victims who are non – Liberians that he was able to provide them with Liberian passports, which the victims allegedly did by paying money to the accused.Defendant Atiro allegedly received US$1,000 as part payment for US$1,600 from victim Sarah D. Washington for travel service to be rendered.

He also allegedly received from Sarah D. Washington US$100.00 for birth certificate.Additionally, defendant Atiro allegedly received 2,500 Ghanaian Cede criminally from victim Sarah Dominique as part payment of Liberian passport

Police say defendant Atiro has caused government to loss revenues in the tune of US$100,000.00, saying receipts recovered from the defendant clearly showed passports being bought by foreign nationals for US$1,000 and above.By Winston W. Parley

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