Pres. Weah Orders Investigation into Bassirou Kante’s Diplomatic Passport Saga – FrontPageAfrica

MONROVIA – President George Weah has ordered an immediate halt to the issuance of diplomatic passports following a FrontPage Africa report that a Liberian diplomatic passport was discovered in the home of Sheik Bassirou Kante during a search by U.S. authorities.

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

As part of its full coverage of the case, FrontPageAfrica reported that the 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.

In the wake of the report, President Weah has authorized 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 has been instructed by the President to submit a full report detailing a review of how Liberian diplomatic passports are issued. He is to report to the President in one week as of May 10, 2022.

It remains unclear how Mr. Kante obtained the diplomatic passport as he is not an employee of the government of Liberia, nor is he known to be a representative of the government at any of Liberia’s Foreign Missions.

However, the 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.

The diplomatic passport purportedly issued to Kante on August 12, 2020 listed him as a Chief of Staff in the office of Representative A. Vamuyah Corneh III (District#14, Montserrado County).

The passport was issued a month before the Minister Kemayah was nominated by the President as Foreign Minister.

VP Taylor, Rep Corneh’s Dissociation Claims

On Monday, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor distanced herself from helping Bassirou to obtain the diplomatic passport, despite acknowledging knowing him.

Her rebuttal was triggered by the report by the U.S. Agents that their search of the defendant’s email unveiled that he had “close personal relationship” with the Vice President of Liberia.

The statement issued through the Vice President’s Press Secretary, Richmond O. Neuville states “The Office of the Vice President categorically states that at no time did this office apply for or recommend the issuance of said diplomatic passport.

It continued: “The office of the Vice President affirms that the Vice President has interacted with Mr. Sheik Bassirou Kante, noting that while it is true that the Vice President has many friends across all sectors of society in her political sojourn, it will be a travesty to logic to suggest that the Vice President is aware of the personal dealings of anyone she may have interacted with at any level.”

Rep. Corneh’s office, in a statement issued on Tuesday said, there is no position called ‘Chief of Staff’ at the House of Representatives, rather ‘Chief of Office Staff’ – and as such, Kante was not an employee of the office of the Montserrado County District #14 Representative.

The statement furthered that the only Chief of Office Staff in the Lawmaker’s office is Anthony D. Wisseh, Jr.; a position he has occupied since 2012. It also added that the issuing of a diplomatic passport to a staffer contravene the policy of the House of Representatives as only lawmakers and their spouses are issued diplomatic passports.

A déjà vu At MoFA?

The latest twist in Kante’s investigation has left observers describing the saga as a déjà vu for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 2020, a passport scandal that engulfed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs led to the suspension, dismissal and subsequent escape of the thenDirector of Passport and Visas, Andrew Wonplo.

On September 10, 2020, former United States Secretary of State Micheal R. Pompeo announced the public designation of Wonplo and he and his family were denied entry to the United States.

The U.S. Government, in its announcement, said the decision was due to Mr. Wonplo’s involvement in significant corruption as an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2018-2019.

Upon his dismissal from the Foreign Ministry by President Weah, Liberia’s Justice Ministry failed to prosecute Mr. Wonplo and this led to the dismissal of the case.

Mr. Wonplo left the country and later said the authorization of issuing diplomatic passports came from his bosses including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, at that time, Mr. Gbehzohngar Findley and the office of the President of Liberia. Findley and the President’s office denied the allegation.

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