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22.07.2002 General News

Visa "Connection" Hits Ministry

By Daily Guide
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An audacious complaint that could lead to a crackdown on the biggest visa racketeering syndicate in government circles has been lodged at the Osu Police Station.

Osu Police have confirmed that an official of the Ghana National Commission on Children (GNCC), Mr. Prescott Logah, at the centre of the visa syndicate is also wanted and is likely to face the full rigours of the law for impersonating the Chief Director of his parent ministry and deceitfully performing the dual role of the Minister and the Chief Director of the ministry.

Logah who is the Protocol and Registry Officer of the GNCC used a fictitious letterhead of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) and craftily forged the signature of the Chief Director as having signed on behalf of Mrs. Gladys Asmah, Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs to secure visas for his “clients”.

Mr. Logah believed to be a functional member of the visa syndicate which charges between $3000 (¢24 million) and $4000 (¢32 million) for visa deals, used fraudulent means to ask the American Embassy to give visas to eight individuals to enable them to attend the 14th International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) in Denver, Colorado in the US from 7th to the 10th of this month (July).

Mr. Henry D. Clerk, the affable director of the Women and Children’s Affairs Ministry who took office less than three months ago and whose signature was beautifully forged to facilitate the acquisition of the United States of America (USA) visas for the people supposed to be champions of children’s rights, took that bold step of lodging the complaint to clear his name and have those involved punished for using his name as a conduit.

Investigations by the Daily Guide established that Mr. Logah was using his position as the Protocol Officer of GNCC to dubiously enrich himself and might have collected huge sums of money for that deal. Daily Guide’s independent investigations also revealed that Mr. Logah was successful in the first batch of three people he presented for visas to be issued but having gone through, he quickly brought another batch of five people as an addition to the group attending the children’s congress.

The Embassy became suspicious and therefore decided to crosscheck from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from where an accompanying letter was attached to Logah’s fictitious letter. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to our investigations also contacted the Women and Children’s Affairs to verify the authenticity of the ministry’s request.

It was then that it was realized the ministry did not have any idea about that shocking “deal”. The Minister and the Chief Director were completely astonished to see something of that sort purported to be coming from the ministry.

Prescott Logah was traced as the one behind that fictitious deal thus throwing the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs into total shock and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Protocol Bureau also into a state of uneasiness.

Mr. Logah now in his forties has reportedly admitted the offence and blamed it on the devil but the case has been hauled before the Osu Police and one Sergeant Pat Okai is said to be investigating it.

When the Chief Director was reached by the Daily Guide he confirmed the incident and the subsequent complaint he made at the Osu Police station. He explained that he initially felt that a rush to the Press could trip up police investigations and open the way for the culprit and accomplices to run away.

According to the Chief Director, he was so angry at the development that if he had his own way, he would have taught Mr. Logah a bitter lesson for forging his signature and causing such an embarrassment to him.

“It was by God’s providence that these people have been exposed before anything ugly happened, otherwise nobody would have believed my innocence if these people had succeeded and gone and later apprehended” he complained adding that he believes the police will treat this as a very serious case.

Mr. Clerk advised that it was wrong for somebody who deals with official documents at the Registry to be made the Protocol officer at the same time since he can easily falsify documents.

Meanwhile Daily Guide’s investigation at the Osu Police Station has established the principal culprit in the visa deal, Mr. Logah has been invited several times to the police station but has refused to report.

According to a police source the officer investigating the case has been to the offices of the GNCC to invite Mr. Logah for questioning but each time the officer goes he does not meet him.

The source indicated that his superiors at the GNCC have been asked to produce Mr. Logah themselves but they have not been able to do that.

An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who spoke to this reporter under condition of anonymity explained that apart from the Ministers and deputy Ministers it is wrong for any official of a ministry to sign any letter asking for protocol consideration.

The official said any letter coming from a Minister or deputy Minister asking for official protocol, has to be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for them to authenticate and attach a letter of support for that request to be sent to the foreign missions for whatever assistance.

The official said now that norm has become a little but bureaucratic and the various ministries have taken on their own protocol officers who deal directly with foreign missions in Ghana on protocol matters.

The official pleaded for the system to be looked at again to avoid criminals infiltrating into the network to abuse the privilege of protocol immunity.

Sources to the various diplomatic consular offices reluctantly admit that there has been increase on several occasions for them to grant (Visa) on protocol certificates. Once in a long while and depending when the request becomes one too many, they crosscheck authenticity with the Ministry or establishment involved. On a number of occasions the suspicions are confirmed and reported appropriately expecting the Ghanaian authorities would themselves take necessary actions.

One other source said “you cannot be 100 per cent sure about who is being faithful in processing the protocol applications.

“You cannot always also query because it could be unpleasant and might cause diplomatic relation problems. So you let go. But generally we’ve had excellent co-operation when we check from behind”.

The Daily Guide investigation Team has also gathered that false Passports Visa contractor business is a large network that must be known to the police. Common tactics of the police is the investigating officer is not in or where he is present, you have to wait for him to be permitted by the superior officer who is himself always out nine times out of ten when you call.

While it is frustrating for the consulates whose advice to applicants is “come direct to us,” you always find the applicants involved with the dupes. Then they come to complain to us as if we are the police,” another source said.

Surprise revelation is that some agents of the syndicates operate from various state institutions, using various ruses. Usually the authorities there may or may not know. Where they are informed, it is said action to dislodge the racketeers discourage informants.

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