Despite Passport Director Andrew Wonploe’s arrest on criminal charges for his reported illegal sale of several passports valued at over US$25,000, there is no indication that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is interested in pursuing further prosecution of the matter.
The passport scam was recently unearthed at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia.
But just why the MoJ appears reluctant to indict Wonploe, who according to officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP), was caught red-handed with some of the passports in his house, is puzzling.
However, many employees at the ministry, who spoke anonymously, believe that if the case were to continue, there is a very strong likelihood that Wonploe will expose the role each senior official played in the “passport syndicate.”
Wonploe was arrested in early August, 2019 by LNP officers following days of investigation, and was subsequently charged with “economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, and tampering with public records.”
Wonploe’s charges were based on his involvement in the alleged passport scam, which the police claimed had caused the government to lose over US$25,000 in revenue.
The government also pressed similar charges against several current and past officials from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) following which, the prosecutors wasted no time to indict the accused, a source told the Daily Observer.
While there is an unprecedented uproar now going on about the government’s reluctance to indict Wonploe to exonerate himself and also expose those involved into the deal, some of the employees believe that there is a much darker side to the story which only few know about until the case is heard in court.
“It is only Wonploe, who can explain details of the passport saga once given the opportunity to be heard in court,” another staff said.
Police also claimed that Wonploe’s action has robbed President George Weah’s economically constrained administration of its needed revenue.
Whilst many Liberians, including the Daily Observer which has written several editorials on the matter applauded the arrest and subsequent prosecution of Wonploe, people are now asking how much the MoJ authorities actually knew about the syndicate.
Police claimed that out of the 4,250 blank passports under the custody of Wonploe, 4,180 booklets were recorded issued to applicants (accounted for), while 70 pieces were reported “damaged.”
“That out of the 70 pieces reportedly damaged, 66 other booklets could be traced, while four of them could not be accounted for,” the court’s document said, quoting the investigative report.
Besides, the court record claims that 17 booklets of birth certificates were illegally issued to individuals without any payment made to the government.
According to the police, during a search and seizure exercise that was sanctioned by the court, they confiscated one fake birth certificate belonging to a Kafumba Dukuly, and seven “blank passports” from the home of Wonploe.
Moreover, the document claims that while the fact remains that the birth certificates and passports were confiscated from Wonploe’s residence, they were public documents and, as such, all of these must and should have remained at the ministry, not at the home of Mr. Wonploe, a mere director in charge of passports.
However, the record alleges that Wonploe denied the allegation, but admitted to the birth certificates and passports being confiscated from his home.