Ten Guineans, including two women, and an Ivorian national were on Friday forwarded to the Monrovia City Court in connection with their alleged attempt to register during the ongoing voter registration exercise for the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
They were charged by the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), formerly the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), with multiple crimes, including possession of valid voter registration cards, illegal resident, election fraud and falsification of Liberian citizenship.
If convicted, they face a possible three-year imprisonment and a fine that will be determined by the court.
The arrests come amid warning by Liberians about the trucking of foreign nationals into the country by some aspirants to have them registered to vote in their favor in the October elections.
Meanwhile, the National Elections Commission (NEC) recently announced that it has registered about a million eligible voters nationwide in the first week of the five-week voter registration exercise that began on February 1.
At Friday’s hearing, the alleged fraudsters were remanded at the Monrovia Central Prison, because they could not obtain lawyers to file a bond that would have stopped the court from sending them to prison.
Minutes before they were surrendered to the jurisdiction of the court, LIS Commissioner Lemuel Reeves told journalists that most of the voter registration suspects were picked-up by NEC staff at various polling precincts around Monrovia, but two of them, including a new mother, were arrested when they used their voter registration cards as traveling documents to leave the country to enter Guinea.
He did not disclose the particular area they were arrested.
“Her voter registration card had on it a Liberian name, Amelia Kollie, which she posed to be, rather than a Guinean,” Commission Reeves alleged.
The other Guinean who he said was arrested had a voter registration card with the Liberian name Kollie Flomo.
“The remaining nine persons, some of them tried using their own Guinean names and posed as Liberian citizens to obtain the voter registration cards fraudulently, before they were arrested by NEC staff,” the LIS boss further explained.
According to Reeves, the NEC and the joint security have carried out a series of arrests of aliens around the country, particularly Guineans, trying to obtain voter registration cards.
“Some of them have been processed for prosecution at the areas where they were arrested,” Reeves disclosed.
However, he could not say exactly how many aliens have been caught in possession of voter registration cards, or how many have been arrested while attempting to register.
Commissioner Reeves said none of those arrested, upon interrogation, ever mentioned that a presidential aspirant was behind their actions; and all denied that any aspirant trucked them into Liberia.
“When we investigated them, none of them were able to mention the name of any aspirant, maybe for reasons best known to them,” he maintained.
“But, we cannot keep them in our prison more the 24 hours statutory period as provided by the law, so we have to forward them for prosecution.
“Some of them are residents in the country, but are not eligible to vote in the election. But, they tried to violate the system and to have themselves obtain our voter registration card, which is illegal under our laws.”
The LIS boss used the occasion to warn aliens who are considering registering in the ongoing voter registration exercise to desist from doing so.
Commissioner Reeves warned aliens in the country to “stay away from the voter registration process or you will be arrested, because we are stepping up security to work closely with the NEC to carry out mass arrests, because it is not good for our electoral process; and it is a very serious offense.”