EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: The unfortunate trap in which the Minister of justice was found with pile of diplomatic passports for his family members including mother and sisters suggests government’s leniency in the distribution of the country’s most prestigious travelling document.
A widely publicised list showed the issuance of over one thousand diplomatic passports in less than three years, such that 582 diplomatic passports were issued in 2017, 449 in 2018 and 174 in 2019.
The case into suspicious fraudulence in the diplomatic passport is further ascending with the list featuring the document being shared among senior government officials, their families, business executives, and even non-Gambians.
The justice minister whose case appeared first in the limelight said although he had followed due process in obtaining the passports, he has decided to return all the five.
But the greatest doubt cast on a few non-Gambians in possession of the diplomatic passport is stalled at the reported arrests on suspected fraudulence in the issuance of the document.
The government is yet to clear itself from the allegation that it is ‘trading’ the diplomatic passport in exchange for favour from a number of rich figures and celebrities in different part of the world.
In August, a widely shared of the document in the name of German professional boxer, Mario Daser was among those making rounds on social media. The boxer with a more than forty-eight thousand Facebook followers is worth thirteen million dollars.
A Polish business tycoon, Roman Kazimierz Ziemian who is President of FutureNet Foundation together with his Vice President, Stephan Karl Morgenstern, a German based in the United Arab Emirates are in possession of the document as ‘Ambassador[s] at Large’.
Their foundation states in its official Facebook that it is out to support innovative and mainly in the fields of medicine and technology to create a better future. Ziemian-Hortman Anstasiia from Ukraine is presented as Economic Adviser on her diplomatic passport. She also has connection with FutureNet foundation.
Nidal Baugartner holds the passport as an Ambassador at Large is said to be a business tycoon in Swizerland. He is believed to be into interstate trade in luxury goods and services. Nidal is among the board of directors Immobilien AG, a real estate company Switzerland.
Similarly, Brandl Andreas Helmut, a Uk based German Director of Likeszl company holds the Gambia’s diplomatic passport as Ambassador at Large.
Last month, Police said arrests were made in connection with the matter initially including three protocol officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with one of the at large.
Two officers of Gambia Immigration Department were called for questioning and one Nigerian national in custody for suspected forgery of the document.
One week ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened a closed-door meeting with members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corp, International organizations in Banjul. It is thought that government’s approach to the current saga on the country’s diplomatic passport was among subjects of discussion.
The ministry said in its Facebook page that the briefing was also meant to inform its diplomatic partners about some of the structural adjustments relating to the issuance of official passports and entitlements.