Three sitting Members of Parliament and a former Member of Parliament have been cited by the British authorities for allegedly perpetrating visa fraud, using their diplomatic passports.
A confidential letter addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye, by the British High Commission, said the MPs used an unauthorised person (a goro boy) and their diplomatic passports to apply for visas for some individuals who travelled to the United Kingdom and did not return as stipulated by their visas.
The letter sighted by The Republic cited Richard Acheampong, MP for Bia East in the Western Region, Joseph Benhazin Dahah, MP for Ntotroso in the Brong-Ahafo Region, Johnson Kwaku Adu, MP for Ahafo Ano South West, in the Ashanti Region, and George Boakye, former MP for Asunafo South in the Brong-Ahafo Region as the culprits.
The letter dated 20th January, 2017, signed by the High Commissioner, Jon Benjamin, and copied to the President, Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Security and other Diplomatic Missions indicated that, the High Commission, “considers the actions of the four MPs completely unacceptable. In some cases these behaviours may arguably be criminal in nature.”
It added that the High Commission “will henceforth only entertain and prioritise requests for visas from MPs, if they are made through the parliamentary protocol office who should verify that there is an official, parliamentary reason for the proposed visit.”
The opening portion of the letter reads, “Dear Mr. Speaker, The British High Commission (BHC) would like, in confidence, to bring the following matters to your attention, regarding the apparent involvement of three serving MPs and one former MP in visa fraud directly affecting the United Kingdom.”
“In doing so, we note the powerful words in your impressive inaugural address as Speaker, to the effect that, for Members of Parliament, holding a Diplomatic Passport is both a privilege and responsibility which should not be abused: and that those who abused that trust would be appropriately dealt with,” the letter partly read.
The High Commission explained that on 11th September, 2012, former MP for Asunafo South, George Boakye, applied for visas for himself and his 37-year old daughter, Joyce Boakye to visit a friend in London for 17 days.
The visas, according to the High Commission,”were granted on 14/09/2012 and on 17/01/2013 Joyce Boakye travelled to the UK with her father (Boakye), but did not leave the UK with her father and remained until 06/01/2017.
Joyce Boakye, the letter said, finally returned to Ghana in January, 2017, after being in the UK illegally for over three years, and only returned upon persistent request to the father, Mr. Boakye, to bring her back.
The High Commission concluded that, based on Mr. Boakye’s action, “he is highly unlikely to be issued any further visas to visit the UK in the next ten years for his role in facilitating his daughter’s travel to the UK, including should he be re-elected to Parliament in a subsequent election.”
On the part of the MP for Bia East, the High Commission said on 27th November, 2015, Richard Acheampong applied for a UK visa using Diplomatic Passport number DX001490 and stated in his application form that he would travel to the UK for a two-week holiday with his “wife” Esther Tiwaa
It added that, on 10th December,2015 Mr. Acheampong and his wife, Esther Tiwaa, were issued with UK visas, but on 24th December,2015 Esther Tiwaa alone travelled to the UK without Hon Acheampong, as stated in their visa applications.
The High Commission said Esther has since not left the UK , and is therefore now there illegally, adding, what makes the matter worst is that Hon Acheampong did not declare the illegal presence of his wife in the UK until he was challenged with the facts by the High Commission.
The letter averred that, Acheampong repeatedly promised that he would bring documentation to prove that Esther Tiwaa was, indeed, his wife, but has consistently failed to do so, neither has he been prepared to share any useful information to help the High Commission track down Esther Tiwaa’s current whereabouts.
The High Commission said, “should Mr. Acheampong now apply for another UK visa at any point up until 08/12/2025 his previous actions with regard to Esther Tiwaa will weigh heavily against his application and he is likely to be refused.”
Citing the MP for Ntotroso on similar breach of law, the High Commission said, “on 06/04/2016, the Honourable MP for Ntotroso. Joseph Benhazin DAHAH, applied for a UK visa using Diplomatic Passport number DX001459 to go on a two week holiday.”
“The Hon DAHAH slated that he was travelling with his wife Gloria DANSU and his niece Beatrice MENSAH On 11/04/2016 the visas of the Hon DAHAH and Gloria DANSU were issued; the visa of his niece Beatrice MENSAH was refused.”
It stated that, “On 13/05/2016 the Hon DAHAH applied in another country for a visa to travel to the Republic of Ireland with his wife and daughter. The identity of his wife had changed from Gloria DANSU in the UK application to Ruyling APPAU in the Irish one.”
More significantly, the High Commission alleged, “a birth certificate was submitted showing that Beatrice MENSAH was now his daughter and not his niece as she had been described when applying to visit the UK. The Hon DAHAH’s UK visa was cancelled and a 10-year UK visa ban has been imposed on him. He has been informed of this.”
Touching on the MP for Ahafo Ano South West, the UK High Commission said, “on 20/06/2016, Johnson Kwaku ADU applied for visas for himself, his wife Grace YEBOAH and their 16-year old daughter Emmanuella ADU in order to visit London for a ten day holiday.”
The letter explained that, “Hon ADU applied using Diplomatic Passport number DX002267 and all three visas were granted on 07/07/2016 and the family of three travelled to the UK on 25/07/2016.”
It argued that, “ADU left the UK just two days later on 27/07/2016 leaving behind his wife and child, if that indeed is what they are, who have not left the UK to date and are therefore now illegally resident there.”
“This is in some ways the most serious of the cases outlined in this letter, given the possibility that Hon ADU knowingly facilitated the movement of a minor who cannot currently be traced into the United Kingdom. That has been noted with alarm by UK authorities,” the letter stated.
The High Commission said, it considers the actions by the four Ghanaian MPs to be completely unacceptable, noting, “in some cases, these behaviours may arguably be criminal in nature. As already outlined, administrative measures have been taken to ensure that the Honourable members mentioned here will most likely not be granted visas for the UK within the next 10 years.”
The High Commission, in the letter, promised to continue to investigate whether any other current or former MPs have engaged in similar behaviour and will inform parliament if it discovers any further such cases.
Furthermore, the British High Commission has information that points strongly to some of the aforementioned Honourable members having used the same unofficial visa agent (also known as a‘Goro boy’) in their applications, specifically a gentleman called Appiah.
“We are sure that Mr. Speaker shares our view that an institution as respected and vitally important as the Ghanaian Parliament should not be a location where unregistered visa agents approach Honourable Members and act as a conduit for them to participate in visa fraud.”
“The British High Commission will happily cooperate fully with any parliamentary and law enforcement investigation into such agents operating in the vicinity of the Ghanaian Parliament,” it further assured.
Given what has transpired, the British High Commission said, it would henceforth request the Ghanaian Parliament to be aware that, it will only entertain and prioritise requests for visas from MPs, if they are made through the parliamentary protocol office who should verify that there is an official, parliamentary reason for the proposed visit.
It further indicated that, MPs wishing to make private visits to the UK or to be accompanied on official visits by non-official relatives must apply online and through the Visa Application Centre, like any other applicant.
Meanwhile, Ms Kate Amardi Addo, Head of Public Affairs of Parliament, has confirmed that the issue has come to the notice of the Speaker and talks are ongoing between him and the High Commission to resolve the matter.
She assured that whatever may be the case under the circumstance, parliament will delve into the matter to prevent future occurrence of such scandal.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com / Felix Engsalige Nyaaba