US Govt. Cracks on Corruption in Liberia -Bans former Passport Director and his Family

Justice denied in Liberia may not necessarily mean justice is denied internationally. While the government of Liberia may seem reluctant to exert the political will to prosecute public officials for corruption, the government of the United States of America has reaffirmed its commitment to standing with the people and government of Liberia in their fight against corruption, as US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo himself on September 10, 2020 announced a designation banning Liberia’s former passport director Andrew Wonplo who was indicted and jailed in August 2019 for passport fraud that reportedly cost the Liberian Government loss in revenue of over US$25,000, from travelling to the United States of America along with his family.

According to Press Release from the Office of Secretary of State Pompoe titled: “Public Designation of Andrew Wonplo Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption”, the government of the United States of America was announcing the public designation of the former Director of Passport and Visas at the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrew Wonplo, due to his involvement in significant corruption.

“In his official capacity at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2018 to 2019, Mr. Wonplo was involved in passport fraud that undermined the rule of law, reduced the Liberian public’s faith in their government’s management of identification and travel documents, and compromised the integrity and security of immigration processes,” Mr. Pompoe stated.

The US Secretary of State further noted that the designation is made under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (Div. G, P.L. 116-94).  Under Section 7031(c), once the Secretary of State designates officials of foreign governments for their involvement, directly or indirectly, in significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.

“The law also requires the Secretary of State to either publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members.  In addition to Mr. Wonplo, I am announcing the public designation of his spouse, Dennice Wonplo, and their minor children,” the press release said.

Through this bold initiative, the government of the United States of America reaffirmed its commitment to standing with the people and government of Liberia in their fight against corruption.

“The Department will continue to use these authorities to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally,” the tough-talking US diplomat stated.

Former passport director Andrew Wonpo was jailed in August 2019 along with a Nigerian for passport fraud that reportedly cost the Liberian government US$25,000 in revenues, but was released on July 14, 2020 because government lawyers failed to appear at the second hearing.

Criminal Court ‘C’ presided over by Judge Yarmie Quiqui Gbeisay dismissed charges against Mr. Wonplo and restored his liberty following a motion filed to the defense lawyer to dismiss charges against his client for failure of the prosecution team to prosecute the matter.

According to Chapter 18 section 18.2 of the Criminal procedure law, the court will dismiss a case due to the failure of prosecution to proceed with the case after two successive terms of court.

The US State Department travel ban on the former Liberian passport director, who pundits believe slipped through the cracks of the justice system, coincidentally comes in the wake of recent bashing of the Liberian media by associate Supreme Court Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie for reportedly defaming the image of the judiciary in their reportage on corruption in the Judiciary.

“This goes to the media people who, for some reason, are going out there defaming the judiciary without any evidence.  Any story which you report without any evidence and anything goes wrong, we Liberians will form a part of it because Liberia is what we all have,” Justice Wolokolie said recently.

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