MONROVIA – A Special Investigation Penal set up to probe the illegal issuance of Liberian visas intended to be issued upon arrival, has submitted its findings, with the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) Deputy Commissioner-General for Naturalization, Col. Asatu Bah-Kenneth and several others being held for allegedly engaging in visa fraud.
Howbeit, Madam Bah-Kenneth has termed the Panel’s report, as conspiracies against her, allegedly being hatched by her detractors who she said want her out of the LIS.
In a chat with Women Voices’ Publisher, Madam Helen Nah-Sammie late last Sunday, the LIS Deputy Commissioner-General for Naturalization, claimed the report is the handiwork of those she said are on a propaganda mission with the intent that she be suspended too, since another Deputy LIS Commissioner, Col. Abigail N. Wesseh was suspended by President George Weah.
Contrary to the LIS Special Investigative Panel’s report that Bah-Kenneth and Abigail Wesseh were probed in connection with the visa fraud, both denied ever being investigated, stating that “at no point in time were we ever investigated.”
Commissioner stressed that as a presidential appointee, neither a person nor a committee within the LIS has any authority to subject her to an investigation, noting that it’s only the Ministry of Justice that is clothed with such authority.
Investigators state that during the course of their investigation, they found that the Liberia Immigration Service’s Deputy Commissioner-General, Col. Bah-Kenneth illegally pre-signed 31 visas issued some Turkish nationals, who entered the country on 30 June 2021, via the Roberts International Airport (RIA), but that she instead owned up to fraudulently signing 29 visas, while claiming that her signature was forged on two other visas illegally issued the Turks.
According to the Special Investigation Panel’s recently concluded report, which Women Voices newspaper is privy to, the investigative panel’s mandate stems from the arrival into the country aboard a chartered flight, via the RIA on Wednesday, 30 June 2021, of some 120 foreign nationals including 119 Turks and a South African.
The Special Investigation Panel’s report indicates that the arrival of a huge number of foreign nationals aboard a chartered flight, the MNG Jet, Havecilik A.S., at the time Liberia was engrossed in a fight against the delta variant of the Covid-19 pandemic, raised eyebrows, especially with the influx of other nationalities, as opposed to restricting incoming travelers.
This, according to the report, sparked concern and the LIS immediately launched a probe, which established that the visas that admitted the 120 foreign travelers into Liberia were pre-signed by unauthorized persons, thus equating to visa fraud which is a crime.
The report states that following profiling carried out by investigators, it was discovered that the foreign nationals were brought into the country by two mining companies based in Grand Cape Mount County; the Bea Mountain Mining Corporation and EPS Mining Company.
The Panel indicates that Col. Bah-Kenneth signed several of the visas that made the Turks gained entry into Liberia during the height of the Covid-19 surge on the country, with many of the visas she fraudulently affixed her signature to being predated; but that even though, with her signature on them, she denied having any knowledge about two other visas dated June 28, 2021, two days prior to the arrival of the foreign nationals.
The report also details how investigators discovered that a total of 45 visas were fraudulently signed by Abigail N. Wesseh, LIS’ Deputy Commissioner-General for Operations in contravention of a May 18, 2021 circular from the office of Col. Robert Budy, Commissioner-General of Liberia Immigration Service, instructing all LIS Deputy Commissioners that none other than the institution’s Commissioner-General signs all visas.
The Special Investigative Panel says following its investigation, based upon their involvement and interactions regarding the fraudulent issuance of Liberian visas meant to be issued upon arrival in the country, five officers of the Liberia Immigration Service, are considered people of interest.
The Panel named the persons of interest in the visa syndicate as LIS Chief of Visas, officer Stanley Perry; officer Victor Gborlee, LIS Deputy Chief of Visas; along with the institution’s Deputy Chief of Security, officer Michael M.P. Hoff; LIS Chief of Logistics, officer Samuel Mulbah; and officer Joe Nyanti, the Deputy Chief of LIS detail assigned at the Ministry of Labor, Monrovia.
The Panel notes that following a careful analysis of its investigation, based upon different voluntary statements, questions and answers, it has established that on the 30th day of June 2021 at about 2000hrs, a special chartered flight MNG Jet, Havecilik, A.S. landed at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County with one Hundred and Twenty (120) passengers on board most of whom were Turkish nationals being brought into the country by Bea Mountain Mining and ESP Mining Company.
The Special Investigative Panel says through its investigation, it also established that LIS Deputy Chief of Security, who the Panel says is also an Executive for Bea Mountain, Officer Michael M.P. Hoff, alleged that he contacted Col. Abigail N. Wesseh, LIS Deputy Commissioner-General for Operations and that she signed 29 visas. The Panel noted that Col. Wesseh could not be reached during the conduct of its findings.
“That, from analysis of the total number of airport visas in the possession of the Investigation Penal signed by Hon. Abigail N. Wesseh sum up to forty-five (45) pieces, which means that the twenty-nine (29) given by Officer Hoff plus sixteen (16) given by Officer Nyanti,” according to the report, which indicates that it was also alleged by Officer Joe Nyanti, who doubles as Deputy Chief of LIS detail assigned at Ministry of Labor and also an Expeditor for Bea Mountain and EPS Mining, that he also contacted and took an unspecified number of unapproved visas to both Col. Abigail N. Wesseh and Col. Asatu Bah Kenneth respectively, for both ladies’ signatures, which he claims they did.
The report adds: “That, the total number of airport visas in the possession of the Investigating Penal signed by Hon. Asatu Bah Kenneth amount to thirty-one (31) pieces of which two (2) were served disclaimer by Hon. Bah Kenneth, which means that she (Hon. Bah Kenneth) admitted signing twenty-nine (29) pieces;
That, the both Hon. Wesseh and Hon Kenneth grossly violated the May 18, 2021 circular from the office of the Commissioner-General of Immigration instructing all Deputy Commissioners not to sign any visas as of said date until further notice aimed at fighting against the Covid-19;
That, it was established and confirmed that Hon. Asatu Bah Kenneth, Deputy Commissioner General for Naturalization did sign some visas in favor of Bea Mountain and EPS Mining Company for these Turkish Nationals but the same was done prior to May 18, 2021, circular; however, some of the visas signed by her on June 28, 2021, in which she stated that her signature was allegedly forged;
That, Officer Michael M.P. Hoff and Joe Nyanti did not submit any letter of request for insurance of airport visas from the Management of Bea Mountain and EPS Mining Company which must be approved by the Commissioner-General of Immigration before processing;
That, both Hon. Abigail N. Wesseh and Hon. Asatu Bah Kenneth who are superior respondents being fully cognizant of the procedures for obtaining visas elected and signed those visas without the knowledge of the Commissioner-General of Immigration.”
The Special Investigative Panel states that up to the time of the composition of its report, the current regular visa being issued by the LIS Visas Section has a balance of 111 copies in the 7,000 series, adding that visas previously issued do not correspond with the balance on hand.
The report pointed out that investigators established and confirmed that most of the visas issued which were probed, were criminally taken from the current batch which was signed for from LIS Logistics Section of on May 27, 2021, by Officer Stanley Perry, Chief of LIS Visas Section;
The report continues: “That, it is established and confirmed that since indeed these Regular Visas are paid for, same were not recorded in the ledger of the Visas Section for dubious and malicious reasons;
That, the visas coded No. 11114 LIS and No. 11466 LIS that were used by Hassan Turan, PP#: U15882598 and Sabah Seher, PP#: U22573097, respectively, both Turkish Nationals entered the Republic of Liberia on June 30, 2021, with expired visas which violated Section 5.90 of the Alien and Nationality Law under the caption “Illegal Entry”;
That, it has been confirmed and further established in consonance with records from the Logistics Section where the Visas are in stock and signed for showed that the series of Airport visas ranging from 7001 to 7500 were supplied to the Visas Section on May 27, 2021;
That, the Deputy Commissioner General for Naturalization, Hon. Asatu Bah Kenneth, admitted and affirmed verbally that she signed twelve (12) of the fourteen (14) Airport Visas with coding: 7344, 7345, 7347, 7348, 7349, 7350, 7351, 7401, 7402 which were signed on May 12, 2012, contrary to the records emanating from the Logistics Section which states that these visas were supplied on the 27th of May 2021; and,
That, the Honorable Asatu Bah Kenneth also stated to Penal verbally that the following visas with series/ coding: 7379 and 7427 signed and dated June 28, 2021 which carried her signature were denied being signed by her despite they being in the same series in count#14.”
Howbeit, the predicted upon its probe, analysis, and nature of the case, the Special Investigative Panel has made several recommendations including calling for the dismissal of Officers Micheal M. Hoff, Joe Nyanti, and Stanley Perry.
The Penal says the trio should be temporarily relieved of their current positions in line with Section 22.127 counts (f), (g), and (h) of the Liberia Immigration Service Act of 2016 and turned over to the Professional Standard Division of the Liberia Immigration Service for further investigation, emphasizing that their actions border around misconduct
The Penal stated that its decision to recommend the men to be relieved of their posts and turned over to LIS the Professional Standard Division for further investigation, stems from the fact that Col. Bah-Kenneth claimed her signature was allegedly forged in two of the visas issued on June 28, 2021, to Bea Mountain in favor of (Hassan Turan, PP#: U15882598 and Sabah Seher, PP#: U22573097) respectively – therefore, being the persons contacted to process these airport visas, it would be prudent they be made to face the LIS Professional Standard Division for further interrogation.
The Penal is also recommending that both Bea Mountain Mining Corporation and EPS Mining Company, being registered entities under the Laws of the Republic of Liberia be thoroughly investigated in connection with the airport visas procurement as well as the illegal entries of two of its guests in contravention of Section 5.12 and 5.90.