Just a day after the United States Government announced the public designation of the former Director of Passport and Visas, Andrew Wonplo, due to his involvement in significant corruption, the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) have praised the action taken by the U.S. government.
The LNBA President, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, said since President George Weah seems not to have the political will to punish public officials that are involved in Impropriety and corruption, then, it is necessary for the US Government to treat them as coronavirus by depriving them from entering their country.
The United States is a traditional ally to Liberia and a popular travel destination for the majority of Liberians.
Addressing journalists on Friday, September 11 at the Temple of Justice, the LNBA’s president said he welcomes the US decision because it would help to fight corruption that is ravaging the country’s resources.
“Everybody should applaud the action because whenever the country is in trouble, it is the US government that comes to our rescue. So, they need to speak to the failure of our branches of government to tackle corruption in the country,” Cllr. Gongloe noted.
According to him, in the past, whenever public officials steal money, they run to the US for protection. Therefore, with this new measure, it means that state officials will now be very careful with their conduct and integrity, “Because somebody is now watching their performance as public officials.”
“Since our system cannot punish those who serve us in the three branches of government, then, the US Government will consider those people as coronavirus, not to enter into their country,” Cllr. Gongloe said.
He noted that the US decision will help the Liberian government to improve its fight against corruption that would ensure the equal distribution of the country’s resources.
Gongloe said the US government is ready to ensure that integrity takes preeminence in Liberia’s governance system, and, therefore, he called on other governments to take similar actions that will make those who bring shame to public offices to be treated like carriers of the COVUD-19 pandemic by depriving them entry into their countries.
It may be recalled that the Liberian National Police (LNP) on September 24, 2019 charged Wonplo and his Nigerian accomplice, identified as Adedoyin E. Atiro, with economic sabotage, theft or property and criminal conspiracy.
It was based on those charges that the government indicted the two with the assurance that they would be convicted which did not happen. By then, the prosecution had claimed that the court’s docket was overcrowded with over hundred cases and the COVID-19 pandemic could not allow the trial of Wonplo.
The government’s failure to try Wonplo necessitated a move by his lawyer to file a motion before Criminal Court “C’ at the Temple of Justice to dismiss the charges against him, of which then, Judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay accepted and dropped the government’s charges against Wonplo.
The police had repeatedly claimed that Wonplo solicited cash from non-Liberians to have them traveled outside of the country at the expense of the government, as well as their alleged involvement in selling Liberian Passport to non-Liberian scholarship students.
The police also claimed that prior to their arrest, there was criminal conspiracy among some employees at the ministry specifically the Passport Division, security department and other departments ye to be identified, who had been engaged in the issuance of Liberian passports as well as traveling opportunities to non-Liberians.
A Press Release from the Office of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo titled: “Public Designation of Andrew Wonplo Due to Involvement in Significant Corruption”, notes that 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. Pompeo 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 statement, 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.