The Director of Passports and Visas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrew Wonploe, and Adedoyin Atiro, a Nigerian, could be sentenced to about 10 years if adjudged guilty of defrauding the government of Liberia through an alleged passports scandal.
The duo was remanded at the Monrovia Central Prison Thursday, after their lawyers failed to secure a bail bond of up to US$50,000 with the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice.
Wonploe is accused of selling Liberian passports to foreign nationals, reportedly using Atiro as a middleman.
Both are charged with multiple crimes, including economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, and tampering with public records, but denied the accusations during the preliminary investigation by the Liberia National Police, according to the Charge Sheet.
When taken to the Monrovia City Court on Thursday to mark the beginning of what could be a long legal battle, lawyers representing the interests of defendants Wonploe and Atiro could not work in time to file bails to prevent their clients from passing the night at the South Beach prison.
However, the case is expected to continue on Friday.
In the meantime, prosecutors say the defendants violated Chapter 12.15, Section 12.34 of the Revised Penal Law of Liberia, and their alleged action made the government lose US$25,000.
Moreover, LNP says its preliminary investigation found that in July, prior to suspect Wonploe’s arrest, he was entrusted with 4,250 pieces of blank passports in his capacity as head of the Passports Division.
But of this number of blank passports, 4,180 were recorded used, while 70 were recorded damaged, LNP says.
It added that out of the 70 reported damaged, 66 could be traced and four not accounted for.
Further, the Charge Sheet states that several pieces of passports belonging to private citizens, fake birth certificates, and other essential documents were confiscated from the main suspect’s home when a search and seizure warrant, sanctioned by the court, was enforced.
Additionally, the police say even though Wonploe admitted to keeping “fake” birth certificates at his residence, he denied being involved in a passports scandal during the probe as did his ‘accomplice’ concerning the charges levied against them.