Andrew Wonpolo, former Director of Passports and Visas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has opened a can of worms in which President George Weah is accused of directing the issuance of privileged passports (i.e. diplomatic or service) to non-Liberians, obtaining privileged opportunities from the Chief Executive (i.e. President of Liberia) either being appointed as Honorary Counsels or individuals being honored by the Government of Liberia during the tenure of his presidency through a special committee, of directing the issuance of passports to non-Liberians.
However, the government of Liberia is yet to officially respond to such damaging allegations from a man who spearheaded the issuance of Liberian passports since President Weah assumed leadership.
Wonpolo further alleged that Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, often acted in the place of President Weah regarding the issuance of diplomatic passports.
“For special cases, the President will work directly with the Director of Passport (Andrew D. Wonplo, Former Director of Passport) via communication instructions always emanating from the Office of the Chief of Protocol of the Executive Mansion (Nora Finda Bundoo), Minister of State (MOS) for Presidential Affairs Without Portfolio (Trokon Kpui) or the Assistant Minister of Logistics, MOS (James Emmanuel Potter),” he revealed.
He went on to mention that contrary to procedure in obtaining regular or ordinary passports, privileged or diplomatic passports did not require proof of citizenship of the Republic of Liberia (RL) for the issuance of said passports.
He said a special committee comprising the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, National Security Agency (NSA), etc. vetted all applicants for Honorary Counsels’ positions and later forwarded the “approved” names of individuals to the Director of Passport through a status letter of communication directing the Passport Director to issue passports to these Honorary Counsels.
Wonplo said he received the status letter of communications of vetted and “approved” individuals from the Special Committee and processed the applications.
“It is important to point out that each status letter received from the committee were processed and later saved in the GoL secured system at the Division of Passports at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“These non-Liberians who were issued diplomatic passports will later go to serve as Honorary Counsels on behalf of the Liberian Government at various locations around the world as they were vetted.”
Wonplo said although it was part of his job as Director of Passports to issue diplomatic passports by law, it was his concern that the vetting of the Honorary Counsels was done without his input.
“It was imperative that I (like any other Passport Director) was compelled to issue said Honorary Counsels diplomatic passports once the communication came from the top. This process gives rise to the issuance of diplomatic to numerous Non- Liberians across the world.
“Now, given the fact that the United States Department of States is questioning the integrity or character of Non-Liberians carrying privileged Liberian passports, shouldn’t we be focusing our attention to the vetting process of these individuals and not accusing or hunting down the Director of Passports who simply took orders and was not even a member of the special vetting committee? Isn’t probable that some of these privileged individuals who are Non-Liberians and holders of diplomatic are bad actors?
“When the US State Department made the announcement designating me and my family, I immediately went public. The next day, I received information that the Government of Liberia had communicated with security apparatus to have me and all those closed to me captured before the US Government can get to me or them.”
He revealed that within less than an hour, heavily armed men were at his house but fled for his life since the evening of Saturday, September 19, 2020. Wonplo said he’s afraid for his life, the lives of his families and all those friends who are very closed to him considering what had happened to the late Matthew J. Innis, a Permanent Resident of the United States of America (Louisville, Kentucky) and former Deputy Director for Micro-finance in the Central Bank of Liberia’s Regulation and Supervision who was mysteriously killed on March 5, 2019.
On September 10, 2020, the US State Department through Secretary Mike Pompeo announced the public designation of the former Director of Passport and Visas 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.
“This 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.
“This designation reaffirms U.S. 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.”
But Wonplo now says the US State Department has been willfully misinformed by the Liberian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the sole purpose of covering up corrupt practices and ties to potential terrorists and drug dealers alike.
According to him, because of this pronouncement by the US State Department, the Liberian government will go at any length to silence me. “And killing me is an option for them.”
He said, “It was made clear in a meeting last week according to my source that I must be captured before the US Government gets to me.”
Wonplo revealed that he is willing appear at the US Embassy near Monrovia to provide further information contained in his press release and other information the US State Department may need.
“My life and the lives of families and close friends are not safe. This is also an SOS call to ECOWAS and UNHCR.
“My fellow Liberians, CDCians and foot soldiers of the cause, the passport scarcity was planned illegally and executed by the Government represented by Gbehzongar Milton Findley and Cllr. Dweh Gray, Deputy Minister for Legal Affairs for personal gain by blocking Buck Press, the original provider of Liberian passports. Gbehzongar is currently using proceeds from said illegal transactions to fund his campaign.”
Wonplo promised that his next press release will say how cash flowed from the alleged illegal transactions carried out by Gbehzongar and Deweh, as well as the 4,250 passports saga as entrenched in the re-indictment by the government of Liberia.
Wonplo was arrested in August 2019 and sent along with a Nigerian national identified as Adedoyin E. Atiro and indicted by the state on three crimes–economic Sabotage, theft of property and criminal conspiracy.
The police charge sheet indicated that while serving as Passport Director in July 2019 and before his arrest in August 2019, at least 4,250 pieces of blank Liberian Passports were entrusted to the Passport and Visas Bureau under his supervision as Director of Passport at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite the wave of evidence against Wonplo the Judicial branch set him free.
The Criminal Court ‘C’ presided over by Judge Yarmie Quiqui Gbeisay dismissed charges against Wonplo and restored his liberty.
The dismissal of charges against the Defendant Wonplo by court was done on July 14, 2020, following a motion filed to dismiss charges against him by his lawyer due to failure by the prosecution team to prosecute the matter.
The dismissal of charges against the former Passport Director by the court was in line with Chapter 18 section 18.2 of the criminal procedure law which states that dismissal by court or failure to proceed with prosecution after two successive terms of court.
Following his release, Wonplo insisted he did nothing wrong, declaring: “Liberia is a country of laws.”