Liberia: Director of Passport Accused of Fraud Goes To Prison After Failing To File Bail
Monrovia – Arrested Director of Passport at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrew Wonplo, who is accused of selling Liberian Passports to foreign nationals, on Thursday, August 15, spent the first night behind bars at the Monrovia Central Prison.
The Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice ordered his detention for his failure to secure a criminal appearance bond after officers of the Liberian National Police had forwarded him to the Magisterial Court for prosecution.
Defendant Wonplo was seen weeping in open court while his head was continuously buried in his face, as friends and some party litigants rushed to court to witness the hearing.
His lawyer Cllr. James Kumeh was seen moving around the court trying to secure a bond on his behalf but his effort did not materialize until the time of the closure of the court at 4 PM.
Defendant Wonplo will remain at the Monrovia Central Prison until he can secure a valid criminal appearance bond which will afford him the opportunity to get temporary release until he is indicted and subsequently prosecuted.
Police had charged the Passport Director with the crimes of economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property and tampering with public records.
These are crimes that violate Chapters 12 and 15, Sections 12.314. 15.56 and 15.80 of the revised Penal Law of Liberia.
These are bailable offences but when he’s found guilty of economic sabotage, Wonplo, 41, might spend the next 10 years behind bars.
Family members and friends present at the court threw insults and threatened to damage the equipment of reporters who tried to photograph him.
They barricaded him covering Wonplo’s face with a cloth to prevent him being photographed. He was rushed to a waiting vehicle outside the court, which took him off to the Monrovia Central Prison.
Police charge sheet in the possession of this paper indicates that while serving as Passport Director in July 2019 and before his arrest in August 2019 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.
The police report shows that out of the amount of 4,180 pieces of passports recorded and issued to applicants, 70 pieces were reported to have damaged.
Out of the 70 pieces of passport that were reported damaged, 66 pieces were traced while four pieces could not be accounted for by the Passport Director.
The police added that during a search and seizure at the home of Defendant Wonplo, which was sanctioned by the court, one fake birth certificate belonging to applicant Kafumba Dukuly bearing registration number 32-LM201222403-103 and additional seven Liberian Passports belonging to seven other applicants were discovered and confiscated.
According to the police, the certificates found and confiscated at the home of Wonplo were documents needed to obtain a Liberian Passport and same were public documents which should have been kept at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not at the home of the Defendant.
“The act carried out by Defendant Andrew Wonplo has caused the Liberian Government loss in revenue of over US$25,000 especially where foreign nationals are beneficiaries of Liberian entitled passports,” added the police charge sheet.
The charge sheet added that when Defendant Wonplo was questioned during an investigation in the presence of his lawyer he denied the allegation but admitted that the birth certificates and seven passports in question were confiscated at his home.
Defendant Wonplo is jailed along with a Nigerian national who police identified as Adedoyin Atiro.
Defendant Atiro is also charged with theft of property, forgery, impersonating officials, economic sabotage and criminal solicitation in connection with the alleged sale of the Liberian Passports to foreign nationals.
Police say Defendant Atiro was also engaged in soliciting money from Liberians and non-Liberians purporting as someone who had authority at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in awarding travel opportunities to applicants with a desire to travel.
At one occasion, the police added in its charge sheet, Atiro purposely, willingly and intentionally solicited and subsequently received US$1,000 as part payment of US$1600 from Sarah Washington for travel service to be rendered and criminally received 2,500 Ghanaian Cede from victim Sarah as part payment for Liberian Passport.
“The act carried out by Defendant Atiro has caused the Government of Liberia to loss the revenue of over US$100,000 especially where receipts were recovered from the Defendant that clearly showed that Liberian Passports were bought by foreign nationals,” said the Police.