— Former Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Findley vows to submit to Investigation in & out of Liberia; claims that President Weah, also, is innocent
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, has claimed that the allegation that he participated in the sale of Liberian passports to foreigners around the world is a baseless and trashy allegation.
Findley, in frantic efforts to clear his name, told a press conference yesterday after Henry Costa, a fierce critic of the government, had released photos of Findley presenting a certificate of Honorary Consul General to a Nigerian National to represent the Republic of Liberia in Mexico.
According to Findley, the allegations from Costa, Wonplo and others that he participated in the sale of Liberian passports are all false and intend to tarnish his good public service track records.
Findley, who has been on the counter-attack lately to clear his name in the midst of the Passport saga, has been engaging the media for the past few days to ensure that his name is cleared or give his side of the story.
The issue is not only damaging to Findley’s portfolio as the nation’s recent former top diplomat, but also to his senatorial campaign in Grand Bassa, where he is running against incumbent Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence.
In his press conference held early Sunday afternoon in Buchanan, Findley read a statement that was less than three minutes long, claiming that, at no time did he ever instruct or authorize the former Director of Passports, Andrew Wonploe to sell the government of Liberia passports. Rather, “it was due to proper oversight of the affairs the Ministry that the criminal conspiracy was busted, resulting in Andrew Wonplo’s subsequent suspension and investigation by the National Security Agency,” Findley said.
Amb. Findley furthermore narrated that, contrary to allegations by Costa, Wonploe and others, Honorable Counsel General positions were not sold, but based on proper vetting, which was done in keeping with the laws and procedures of Liberia and with the involvement of the National Security Agency (NSA).
“For the record, I did not instruct the former passport director to trade a Liberian passport to a non-Liberian. While serving as Minister, all Honorary Consuls were commissioned and issued diplomatic passports based on proper vetting by the government in compliance with international protocol and laws,”
On Saturday evening, September 26, Costa in a Facebook live podcast alleged that Liberia’s Honorary Consul General to Mexico, Akintunde Ojo, had earlier been denied a Liberian diplomatic passport in 2014, during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. According to Costa, the administration of President George Weah, however, opted to grant Mr. Ojo said status through the sale of the consular post for US$250,000.
As for Wonploe, who has not spoken since Findley’s first response last week, said in an unsigned release and audio recording that former Minister was the person who represented the Liberian Government under President Weah to illegally issue Liberian passports to foreigners around the world.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, often acts in the place of the Chief Executive (i.e. President Weah) when it comes to the issuance of diplomatic passports. My fellow Liberians, CDCians and foot soldiers of the cause, please be informed that the passport scarcity was planned illegally and executed by the Government of Liberia represented by Gbehzohngar Milton Findley. Gbehzohngar is currently using proceeds from said illegal transactions to fund his campaign,” Wonplo’s statement said.
However, according to Findley Wonplo’s allegation is far from the truth. According to the former Minister, his innocence is validated by that the fact that the investigation from the NSA clearly indicts Wonplo and co-conspirators stationed in Ghana and some staff members of the passport section jointly working with him in carrying out the criminal conspiracy.
“Wonplo did not act alone but rather it was a conspiracy between a Nigerian individual stationed in Ghana and some staff members of the passport section jointly working with Andrew Wonplo in carrying out the criminal conspiracy.
“The issue of these missing passports is not a strange issue to me because, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, I initiated a full-scale investigation conducted with the involvement of the NSA. Let me assure Liberians and the world that Liberian passports are safe, and we kept the integrity of our international passports and credentials safe,” Findley said.
Meanwhile, former Minister Findley has also refuted claims by Mr. Wonplo that he was instructed by President George Weah to sell the passports to non-Liberians.
“The issuance of Passports is the sole prerogative of the Minister and not the President of Liberia, as spell out by the former Passport Director Andrew Wonplo,” Findley maintained. “I am willing to submit to any form of investigation, whether in Liberia or internationally, over the ongoing alleged sale of Liberian diplomatic Passports and Honorable Counsel General positions,” he said.
Wonplo, who was re-indicted recently, earlier saw the case against him dropped by Judge Yamie Gbeisay of Criminal Court C due to prosecution’s failure to make a substantial follow-up on the case over the course of two terms of court. Wonplo was charged for allegedly defrauding the government of Liberia in the tune of US$25,000 for the illegal sale of passports to non-Liberians.