Three sitting Ghanaian MPs who have been indicted by the UK Government for visa fraud will have their Diplomatic Passports withdrawn if investigations find them culpable of the offence, Ghana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey has said.
The three MPs, together with a former lawmaker, have been cited in separate alleged visa offences by the UK government and a 10-year visa ban placed on them.
They include: Richard Acheampong, MP for Bia East in the Western Region; Joseph Benhazin Dahah, MP for Asutifi North (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.
A confidential letter written to the Speaker of Parliament by the UK government through the UK High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Jon Benjamin, said the four MPs violated UK visa regulations on different occasions by either providing false information for their visa applications or facilitating the visas of some relatives who overstayed their visas in the UK.
The letter addressed to Prof Mike Oquaye said: “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. I should add that the party affiliation of these MPs is, in this context, irrelevant to us: we simply state the facts as we have discovered them.
“We are continuing to investigate whether any other current or former MPs have engaged in similar behaviour and will inform you, if we discover 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,” the letter added.
Speaking on the matter, Mrs Botchwey described the allegations as “very serious”, adding: “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.
“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,” she told Accra-based Citi FM.