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Opinions Mon, 7 Jun 2010

RE- Passport Racketering At The Ghana Embassy In The United States

My attention has been drawn to two articles that appeared on the news section of Ghana Web with regard to “passport racketeering” at the Ghana Embassy in the U.S. The first one was culled from the Ghana Journal and the second was the rejoinder from the Ghana Embassy in the U.S.A.

My interest in both stories is that, although, my name was not specifically mentioned in any of the articles, my story was partially told. Before I proceed I want to make it clear that I am not impugning any criminality to anyone and for that matter the Embassy. I however want to state my case for everybody to judge what might have gone wrong with my passport.

On Monday April 12, 2010, I mailed my expired passport with several visas in it, including active United States visas, and a Schengen visa through the U.S. post priority mail service. On Friday April 16, 2010, five days after I mailed my passport, I received a call from the Embassy in Washington that they had received my package, but my passport and passport pictures were not included. They added that every other thing was in the parcel, including the return priority envelope, the banker’s draft, and the application itself. I challenged the caller that everything was in that envelope and that it could be verified at where I posted the documents, since it is a very small post office within my Department and it was checked and sealed in my presence. The caller insisted that he opened the parcel himself and that he was certain that the passport was not among the contents, but that he would check again. On Monday April 19, 2010, I called the Embassy and I was told it had not been found and that they would get back to me.

On Tuesday a senior official from the Embassy called to inform me that from their investigation my parcel was tampered with before it was received but their only fault was that they should have immediately alerted the post agent who delivered the parcel. I was then asked to submit new passport pictures for me to be issued a new passport, which has since been issued.

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An attorney working on my case called the Embassy to ascertain the facts regarding my missing passport and the same story of a tampered parcel was told. Fortunately, while the Attorney was on the phone with the Embassy, the postal agent who delivered my parcel was in the Embassy at the time and he could not verify whether the parcel was tampered with or not.

I lodged a complaint with the Inspector of U.S. Post (case number CA101878578). After two weeks of their investigation I was informed that after checking all the stations my parcel went through before being delivered to the Embassy, no missing or ‘standalone’ passport had been found and since the parcel was delivered to its final destination there was little they could do. They, however, assured me that if any passport is found it is sent to the National Passport Center and the respective Embassies. I wish to make it clear here that the statement made in the rejoinder by the Embassy that “As it turned out, the post office could not conduct a search for the passport because the package in which it was sent was not trackable” is not correct. What could not be tracked is a standalone passport since the parcel was delivered.

To date, my passport has not been found. The USCIS is insisting that I have to travel to the issuing post, which is Accra for the relevant Visa to be issued. It is sad to note that I have on several occasions used the same mailing system to send my passport to other Embassies here in the U.S. whenever I have to travel and my passport never gets missing. Unfortunately it got missing when it was mailed to my own Embassy. I am stating it here now and again that I am not imputing any criminality, but there are more questions as to how my passport got missing than answers. I have had several reports from other Ghanaians, who have gone through similar ordeals, which I am chronicling and at the appropriate time will be made public. There is definitely something that does not smell right.

Robert M. Yawson

Columnist: Yawson, Robert M.
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