In a no-hold-barred underground interview, former passport director Andrew Wonplo has opened a pandora box from which officious names are flowing like genies from a long hidden lamp. No one knows from where he’s speaking, but Wonplo’s latest revelation is so damaging that it has caused a ruckus within the Weah administration.
“As I said in my press release, I was not part of the committee, but meanwhile I was receiving instructions – and these instructions came from the higher-ups, I maintain. And who are they? Instructions to issue these passports came from the office of the President, it came from through individuals, the likes of Trokon Kpui, the likes of James Emmanuel Potter of course the rescue mother, Nora Finda Bundoo and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Legal, Deweh Gray,” Wonplo informed the world about his knowledge of the latest passport scandal that caused none other the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, to issue a designation banning Wonplo and his immediate family from traveling to the United States.
It can be recalled, the Government of Liberia, through the courts, had acquitted Mr. Wonplo of all charges of passport fraud. But immediately after Mr. Pompeo’s designation, the Liberian government reindicted Wonplo, who has since gone underground and has been making damaging revelations about the whole passport saga.
“Anything I say, anybody that wants to come out, I challenge you because I know that I’m speaking with facts – and for every time I speak and you come up to challenge me, something will come out that you need to see. I am serious. I’ve said and I maintain, there was a criminal cartel, there was a team put together to start, plan and manage these activities when it comes to the issue of giving out diplomatic passports to non-Liberians,” Wonplo stated in an audio recording released last week to the public.
Disclosing the criminal minds behind the passport scandal, Wonplo said most people do not understand the whole passport deal.
“This is the argument, the people are not picking up here, fellow Liberians. If you write for an honorary consul – and ask me to give him a passport and somebody come back and say, have you issued non-Liberian passports, and I say yes. Am I wrong? I am not wrong. I understand the applied terminology being used here. What these guys don’t want to agree here to is that those individuals that they offered the honorary consulship to were not Liberians and so when issued them the diplomatic passports, they were non-Liberians that were receiving the diplomatic passport, this is the issue. And so, whether these people were vetted properly or they were not vetted properly, I don’t know,” Wonplo stated.
According to Article I of the 2012 Revised Regulations on Honorary Consuls in Liberia, “Non-Liberians Honorary Consuls shall not be entitled to Liberian Diplomatic Passports”.
The revised regulation is clear that: “Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia Shall be granted no additional privileges and immunities other than that provided by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. With the exception of Liberian citizens appointed as Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Liberia in other countries. An Honorary consul shall operate under the jurisdiction and/or oversight of the Liberian Ambassador accredited to a Receiving State or a Liberian Ambassador accredited to a country in geographical proximity of the Receiving State.”
“So, over a period of time, what leaders did, with cautious minds, when consul generals are appointed, based on the relationship and the offer they are providing to the country, previous presidents would prefer one or two of them carrying the Liberian passports which is their right because they have the right to refer who carries the Liberian diplomatic passport but these things were done consciously. Under the CDC-led government, there was no conscience. Every honorary consul general that was appointed was entitled to the passport.
“As passport director, who am I to come out and say the right of the president here should not be upheld? It’s not possible. Mr. President, you were sending your actors – Trokon Kpui, Fida Bundoo, Emmanuel Potter, Gbehzongar Findley, I was constrained to act. There is no way possible that any passport director in Liberia will look at a diplomatic passport and issue it without being authorized, it’s not possible given the way the process goes, it’s not possible – and so, you appointed your honorary consul. I still maintain that all of the appointments were done by you people. The passport system is there and I dare you try to play with the passport system. If you play with that system you will further damage yourself because it is in that system that I was schooled. I know the system more than fingertips. Anybody who plays with the system, when I get in I will deal with you from the system. No one should dare go into the system because the facts are also there. Besides, we don’t need a system around here my people because the facts are glaring and on the wall. So, who gave the letters of appointment and the commission letters? Can you show me someone with a Liberian diplomatic passport that doesn’t have a letter of commission?” Wonplo conjectured.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is urging former passport director Andrew Wonplo to present his evidence in court to validate his allegations against officials of the Ministry and other state actors in the recent passport saga.
Acting Foreign Minister Henry Fahnbulleh, addressing a news conference in Monrovia Wednesday said if Wonplo is speaking the truth with regards to the names of individuals he has called in his audio recordings, it will be prudent for him to appear in person with pieces of evidence.
Minister Fahnbulleh said the discovery of the fraud came as a result of the Ministry’s covert investigation conducted and not from any external investigation.
“The discovery of the passport scandal was as a result of our own covert investigation, and that’s how everyone got to know that there was issue with passport, so Wonplo should stop running around and come to the court with his evidence to substantiate his claims,” Minister Fahnbulleh noted.
He said if there were any reason why authority of the Ministry should dubiously trade Liberian passports to Foreign Nationals which he said will never happen, they wouldn’t have brought to the public information surrounding the scandal.
According to him, the scandal was discovered by the Ministry after which Andrew Wonplo was turned over to the court, adding that the government has written the United States Government to aid with the investigation.
The Acting Foreign Minister said when former Foreign Minister Findley announced that there was an issue concerning the illegal trading of passports, he immediately requested that the United States Embassy near Monrovia be notified and it was done as requested.
He indicated that the communication to the United States Embassy also requested their intervention to aid the Liberian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conducting investigations surrounding the passport.
“We don’t have anything to hide, if we had anything to hide, we wouldn’t have invited the US Embassy to join us in the process; and that’s the US government is a part of the investigation,” he averred.
He further stated that if the government was hiding anything concerning fraudulent use of the Liberian passports, the very government will not publicize the information as well as call on the US government to help investigate the matter.
He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs feels embarrassed about negative information in the media and other public spaces regarding its image with respect to the alleged illegal trading of Liberian passports.