Sierra Leone telegraph: 5 October 2018:
Officials at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Sierra Leone, yesterday told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that they are seeking the extradition of the country’s fugitive former head of immigration- Mr Kholifa Koroma, who is alleged to have sold and unlawfully issued Sierra Leone passport in a fraud racket worth hundreds of thousands of dollars., if not millions.
According to reports, the UK Police yesterday arrested Kholifa Koroma on allegations of money laundering and amassing of unexplained wealth in the UK, but was released on bail and will appear in court at the end of the month.
The ACC Investigations into the illegal sale or issuing of passport by officials in the former APC government, reached its climax last month, when eight people were arrested, in a joint effort with the US Embassy to help combat corruption in Sierra Leone.
The ACC investigation has examined evidence involving dozens of people believed to have been issued with the country’s diplomatic and ministerial service passports, which were then used to obtain travel visa to the US.
Last month’s carefully planned and well executed raids and arrests by the ACC, took place at institutions were according to sources the illegal sale and or transfer of passports is believed to have been organised.
In August, the ACC issued an order for INTERPOL’s arrest of the former head of the immigration service – Kholifa Koroma, which was diligently executed by London police yesterday
According to the ACC, an order for the arrest of Mr Kholifa Koroma was made after a government report published by the Governance Transition Team (GTT) recommended that “the issuance of Diplomatic passports be urgently reviewed and that the former Chief Immigration Officer, Kholifa Koroma, be investigated for his alleged complicity in the issuance of Diplomatic passports to hundreds of ineligible holders.”
And that, “If sold to outsiders, the diplomatic passports could fetch millions of dollars. The former Chief Immigration Officer must be made to account for those passports.”
In October 2014, Kholifa Koroma announced that 20,000 (Twenty thousand) passports had arrived in the country from the United Kingdom, and will be made available to the public
This is what the GTT report says about the illegal sale or issuing of the country’s passport:
In December 2013, the Government signed a new contract with Netpage, which purportedly represents the old British firm, Thomas de la Rue, to produce epassports for the GoSL.
Thomas de la Rue has been under contract with the GoSL since February 2000 to supply machine-readable passports and their associated issuing system for Sierra Leone.
Jamel Shallop, a Lebanese businessman, owns Netpage, which purportedly provides Thomas de la Rue’s services in Sierra Leone.
The new contract was for the purchase of “passport issuing and personalization” from Thomas de la Rue to enable Sierra Leone to “migrate from readable passports to ePassports, and the design of new ePassports.”
The total contract cost amounted to £2,195,360, of which the Government paid £1,680,641 upon signing the agreement. The other substantive terms of the contract are simply bizarre. All funds from the sale of the passports were to be given to Jamel Shallop and Co.
Netpage and the Government of Sierra Leone would earn only the Le 10,000 that citizens pay to obtain the passport application form.
The company, in other words, though paid for the service, benefits up to US $100 per passport fee that citizens’ pay to actually obtain a new passport, and GoSL gets only about $1.25.
The GTT strongly recommends the contract with De la Rue and its supposed service provider company Netpage, be urgently reviewed.
Moreover, a verification exercise conducted by the GTT, of the issuance of 1,179 diplomatic passports, revealed that hundreds of ineligible citizens were granted diplomatic passports and that dozens of those passports could not be accounted for.
Two official directives – a 1998 Cabinet Conclusion and a 2007 declaration by President Koroma – restricted ownership of diplomatic passports to the President, Vice President, Speaker of Parliament, Chief Justice, cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, diplomatic representatives and Members of Parliament (this last category was added by President Koroma’s Directive).
However, a list of diplomatic passport holders obtained by the GTT shows such luminaries as ‘housewives’ of senior APC leaders, their business associates and sundry other categories of persons holding diplomatic passports.
The GTT recommends that the issuance of Diplomatic passports be urgently reviewed and that the former Chief Immigration Officer, Kholifa Koroma, be investigated for his alleged complicity in the issuance of Diplomatic passports to hundreds of ineligible holders.
If sold to outsiders, the diplomatic passports could fetch millions of dollars. The former Chief Immigration Officer must be made to account for those passports.