Commonwealth Games visa scandal: Seventy Journalists applied for accreditation
Ongoing investigations into alleged visa racketeering involving Ghanaian officials and journalists at the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia could take a different twist as the Graphic Sports is learning that most of the journalists detained and deported by the Australian immigration authorities applied for accreditation directly through the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (GOLDOC) and not through the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC).
Even as the Criminal Investigations Department (CIP) of the Ghana Police Service has taken over investigations, GOC officials insist the organisation processed the accreditation for just one journalist, Ken Odeng Adade, who is the official Press Attache of Team Ghana. All other media accreditations, GOC officials say, were procured directly by the journalists and/or their media houses without any assistance from the GOC.
The Graphic Sports has been furnished by the GOLDOC a list of media personnel who applied for press accreditation to travel to Australia for the Commonwealth Games which ended yesterday. Further checks by this paper with the Australian authorities in Gold Coast, indicated that the media personnel applied online individually or through liaison officers from their media organisations, many months ahead of the commencement of the Games as prescribed by the organisers.
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Information available to the Graphic Sports indicates that the GOLDOC, after receiving requests for the accreditation, only sought confirmation from the GOC if the media practitioners and organisations whose names appeared on the list for accreditation, really exist in Ghana.
The list provided by the GOLDOC indicates the name of the applicant, media organisation and the type of accreditation being sought. The list of applicants accredited included known media houses and sports journalists, others whose identities could not be immediately ascertained among the sports media, and five others who applied using the official government of Ghana web portal (ghana.gov.gh) as their reference media organisation.
The Graphic Sports can state, however, that not all the accredited journalists travelled to Australia for the Games.
At the height of reports of arrests, detention and deportation of some Ghanaians, including many whom the Australian immigration officials doubted their identities as journalists, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last Thursday suspended the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Pius Enam Hadzide (who was the chairman of an ad-hoc group known as International Games Committee) and the Director General of the National Sports Authority (NSA), Robert Sarfo Mensah. The presidency recalled from Australia, the NSA’s Board Chairman, Kwadwo Baah Agyemang, GOC president, Ben Nunoo Mensah and Ghana’s Chef de Mission (leader of the delegation), Mohammed Sahnoon, to assist in the investigations
Days before the reported arrest and detention of Ghanaians of doubtful credentials, the GOC had issued a statement signed by Mr Sahnoon, cautioning people intent on travelling to Australia but were not properly accredited to avoid travelling to Australia as they risked detention or removal from Australia by the Department of Immigration and Border Control.
So far, two staff of the NSA who had close working relations with the GOC and assisted in the data entry for the games, Hussein Akuetteh Addy and Christine Ashley, have been suspended for their alleged complicity in the scandal and sent home by the GOC after their preliminary investigations.
The two officials, together with the 11 journalists who were held by Ghana’s immigration authorities on arrival, have been released on bail by the Ghana Immigration Service and now assisting in the ongoing investigations.