From top left: Johnson Kwaku Adu, Joseph Benhazin Dahah, George Boakye, Richard Acheampong
The British High Commission in Ghana has placed a ‘red alert’ on three Ghanaian parliamentarians and one former Member of Parliament (MP) for allegedly flouting visa regulations in a manner the Commission says could “arguably be criminal in nature.”
News of the diplomatic embarrassment broke in Accra on Wednesday when a confidential letter of complaint authored by the British High Commissioner, Jon Benjamin and addressed to the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, leaked to the local media.
It complained that Richard Acheampong, Member of Parliament 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, used their diplomatic passports to apply for visas for persons close to them who travelled to the UK and never returned.
“The British High Commission considers the actions [of the MPs] completely unacceptable. In some cases these behaviours may arguably be criminal in nature….We are also circulating this letter widely to other Diplomatic Missions which issue visas in Ghana in the expectation that some of them will consider similar action to ourselves against the above-named individuals,” Jon Benjamin stated in the rather strongly-worded letter.
He continued that the four persons mentioned also used unofficial agents, mostly known as ‘goro boys’ to facilitate the visas for persons who are currently living in the UK on illegal basis because they have outstayed their visas.
Attempts to get the people return to Ghana had failed except perhaps, George Boakye’s daughter.
The British mission even doubted the claims made by the MPs as one of them presented different information about the same people to another embassy.
“On 20/06/2016 the Honourable MP for Ahafo Ano South-West, 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 Hon Adu applied using Diplomatic Passport number DX002267; all three visas were granted on 07/07/2016. The family of three travelled to the UK on 25/07/2016. The Hon 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 noted.
The Embassy said on 06/04/2016, 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.
“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, 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.”
‘My Girl Overstayed Because Of Love’
In response, the former Member of Parliament for Asunafo South, George Boakye, admitted that he truly facilitated the acquisition of a UK visa for his daughter but when she entered the UK she overstayed because she met a man there who promised to marry her.
The former MP told Starr Fm on Wednesday that the incident has strained the relationship between him and his daughter but he does not consider her actions as something for which he should be held criminally liable.
Mr. Boakye said he applied for visas for himself and his 37-year-old daughter, Joyce Boakye, to visit a friend in London for 17 days, which were granted on September 14, 2012 and that he’s not happy about what his daughter did.
Foreign Minister Speaks
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, after the news broke, suggested the need for an amendment of current laws on the issuance of diplomatic passports.
“As a ministry, we are doing what we need to do and that is looking at the law again and making sure we do something in terms of amendments to ensure that these things don’t happen again,” the minister said and revealed that her ministry could strip the supposed culprits of their diplomatic passports if found guilty.
Ms Ayorkor Botchway spoke to Citi Fm: “I will wait for Mr. Speaker to deal with the matter and I will act on the findings. Just as a Minister has the discretion to issue a Diplomatic Passport, so does the Minister have the discretion to withdraw a passport. So that can be done if indeed it is found that the persons in question used the passport to do something that shouldn’t have been done.”
By Halifax Ansah-Addo