Former Foreign Affairs Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley under whose nose Liberian passports were allegedly sold to foreigners is now blaming his opponent for holding him accountable for the alleged sales of the passports.
The Liberian Government recently reopened investigations into the sales of Liberian passports to aliens, days after the United States Government sanctioned former Passport Director Andrew Wonplo and family from traveling to the U.S over corruption allegations which involved the sales of Liberians Passports to foreigners.
The government had initially dropped charged against Wonplo, but barley two weeks ago an arrest order was issued for him and several other individuals. Wonplo is said to be on the defensive accusing higher ups including President George Weah and Foreign Ministry officials of being involved in the issuant of said passports to foreigners and not him.
His accusations has not only raised bigger eyebrows but has opened a Pandora box with blames being shifted on the Justice Ministry which initially refused to prosecute Wonplo thereby dropping charges.
Former Foreign Minister Findley in a press release issued last week denied any involvement in what is now being speculated as one of the biggest scandals to hit the Weah regime.
However, while addressing a press conference in Grand Bassa County where he is competing against incumbent Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence on Sunday September 27, while addressing the passport issue, Findley described Sen. Karngar Lawrence as a “criminal” for believing in claims being made by Wonplo who is currently on the run.
Findley who described himself as blameless in the entire passport scandal despite having oversight responsibility over that division at the foreign ministry, argued that at no point in time, did he ever mandates the former passport director to issue passport to foreigners or aliens.
Findley further argued that for every Liberian passport given out, the bearer gos through the proper channels which include vetting to establish proof of citizenship. He said for the former director to be running away from justice and at the same time accusing people who serve diligently will not be accepted by him or his campaign team.
He diverted from the allegation saying Sen. Karngar Lawrence who has lost political grip over Grand Bassa County should be apologizing to the people of Bassa and asking for their pardon over her failed promises over the last 8 years rather than accusing him of dishing out passports to foreigners.
Meanwhile, Findley pointed out that he will submit to any investigation into the passport scandal, while denying President Weah’s involvement in the sales or issuant of Liberian passports to foreigners.
Findley said, it is impossible for the Liberian leader to be involved in such criminal deal instead of officials of the passport bureau.
Recently, Senator Karnga Lawrence posted on her social media page that the growing allegations of the criminal sale of Liberian diplomatic passports to international criminals and terrorists are serious and deeply disturbing.
She continued that these allegations have far-reaching implications for the country including compromising Liberia’s international standing and reputation, and dangerously risk every Liberian holding a passport including officials and diplomats.
The passports are linked to the West African Sub-region. Each passport designates its holder as representing the broader West African space. To criminally sell these passports, as it is being alleged, to international criminals and terrorists, is to risk our credibility in ECOWAS, and undermine the regional standing and in and off them, as if the allegations are not bad enough, the public space is being inundated with information that links the highest offices of the country responsible to maintain Liberia’s good image and protect the country’s international reputation – the Office of the President and that of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“A proud Liberian, a Senator, and a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, I hope that these allegations, which now swirl around the President and the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, are not true. Because were they to be true, they would present us with our most embarrassing, shameful and degrading international moment since the war brought our nation to our collective knees,” she said.
She said, she’s not going to be holding her breath! The litany of irresponsible behaviors by this administration, and its commitment to corruption in the highest of places, as well as the many shameless efforts to cover up, don’t impress her, nor should it impress anyone, that this administration will suddenly become responsible, and let itself act in the best interests of the country, rather than try to cover up for friends and accomplices, as it is known to do.
He pointed out that the authorities here claim that Mr. Andrew Wonplo and 10 other defendants caused the government to lose over US$30,000 through illegal sales of Liberian passports to non – Liberians, as well as people looking for space to travel to the United States and Canada who were willing to pay as much as US$2,000 each for a Liberian Passport.
He was recently re-indicted after the U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo earlier announced on 10 September the public designation of Liberia’s former Director of Passport and Visas Andrew Wonplo, “due to his involvement in significant corruption,” making Wonplo and his immediate family members ineligible for entry into the United States.
In the wake of Mr. Wonplo’s recent revelations attempting to link Mr. Findley and other top officials to the passport scandal, the former Foreign Minister says he is constrained to respond to the “outlandish comments oozing out of the unfounded accounts from the former Director of Passport & Visas, Mr. Andrew Wonplo.”
Findley explains that his service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Republic of Liberia was characterized by service to country, commitment to duty, strengthening bilateral and multilateral relationships, upholding the rule of law, and dedication to delivering the statutory mandate of the Ministry.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Othello B. Garblah