Diplomatic Passport Scandal Continues to plague Liberia and its International Image with no Solution in Sight

In September 2020, the then Secretary of State of the United States of America designated Andrew Wonplo who was then Liberia’s Director of Passport and Visas for his alleged involvement 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.” Three years on, the illicit issuance of Liberian diplomatic passports remains a menace the country is grappling with.

Wonplo who was denied entry into the United States upon his designation made several staggering revelations calling names of a number of then high-ranking officials of the Liberian government, including former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gbezhongar Findley, former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, among others.

He claimed then that Liberia was sitting on a time bomb as there was a cartel within the government that implicated him because of his refusal to cooperate with their syndicate.

Despite these allegations, investigating the illicit sale of Liberian passports has often been met with indifference by the government. However, in May 2022, President Weah ordered an immediate halt to the issuance of diplomatic passports following a FrontPage Africa report that a Liberian diplomatic passport was found in the home of Sheik Bassirou Kante during a search by U.S. authorities.

Mr. Kante was arrested for alleged money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud by FBI agents in the United States in April 2022 and is currently in pre-trial detention.

Kante, a popular Liberian businessman, could not secure a bail bond as the court has taken into consideration several factors, including his possession of a Liberian diplomatic passport and his very close ties with the Liberian government. The FBI discovered that Kante also had very close relationship with Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.

The FBI investigation revealed, “The Defendant’s ties to Liberia, moreover, are especially deep. The email search warrant production revealed that the Defendant has a close personal relationship with the Vice President of Liberia.”

In the wake of that report, President Weah sanctioned the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dee-Maxwell Kemayah to immediately suspend the issuance of diplomatic passports. The President has also ordered Minister Kemayah to investigate circumstances leading to the issuance of Liberia’s diplomatic passport to Sheik Bassirou Kante.

Minister Kemayah was instructed by the President to submit a full report detailing a review of how Liberian diplomatic passports are issued. He was to report to the President in one week as of May 10, 2022.

To date, the outcome of that investigation is yet to be made known to the public. And it remains unclear how Mr. Kante obtained the diplomatic passport as he was not an employee of the government of Liberia, nor was he known to be a representative of the government at any of Liberia’s Foreign Missions.

Several attempts made by FrontPageAfrica to obtain a copy of the report have proved futile as both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President have been mum on the report.

FrontPageAfrica has again obtained another batch of diplomatic passports issued to foreigners as recently as August 2023.

A British national, Patrick John McCaffery, received a Liberian diplomatic passport numbered DP000800. This passport was issued on August 11, 2023, and his occupation is listed as Special Envoy, Government of Liberia.

Stephen Ochieng Nyahera, a Kenyan National who is believed to be a contact person between the Liberian syndicate and the foreigners wanting Liberian diplomatic passports also obtained a Liberian diplomatic passport in January 2022. FrontPageAfrica has seen several photos of Stephen with Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor. While his Liberian diplomatic passport lists him as a Special Envoy working with the Liberian Investment Commission, it is not clear what role he is performing for the Commission.

Yasam Ayavefe, a Turkish National, also carries a Liberian diplomatic passport numbered DP0002945 and he is listed as a Diplomat under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Another British national, David Barrie, carries a Liberian diplomatic passport DP0002508 and is listed as Honorary Consul in Athens, Greece. His passport was issued in January 2022.

Denis Ivosevic, a Croatian, carries the title Business Consultant, National Investment Commission, in his Liberian Diplomatic Passport. While he is said to be a Croatian on the Liberian Diplomatic Passport, sources informed FrontPageAfrica Ivosevic is Russian by nationality and is believed to be involved with arms trade for Russia. FrontPageAfrica has, however, not been able to verify this information.

Again, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been mum on the matter despite efforts made to get comments.

However, sources familiar with the recent issuance have disclosed to FrontPageAfrica that certain officials of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and influential CDC lawmakers have been collaborating with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and various government Ministries and Agencies to facilitate the issuance of diplomatic passports to foreign individuals in exchange for payments ranging from US$200,000 to US$350,000 per passport.

Source: Front Page Africa