Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Reuters, December 4, 2016
Authorities in Ghana have busted a fake U.S. embassy in the capital Accra run by a criminal network that for a decade issued illegally obtained authentic visas, the U.S. State Department said.
Until it was shut down this summer, the sham embassy was housed in a run-down, pink two-storey building with a corrugated iron roof and flew a U.S. flag outside. Inside hung a portrait of President Barack Obama.
“It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law,” the State Department said in a statement released late on Friday.
Turkish citizens, who spoke English and Dutch, posed as consular officers and staffed the operation. Investigations also uncovered a fake Dutch embassy, the State Department said.
The crime ring issued fraudulently obtained but legitimate U.S. visas and false identification documents, including birth certificates at a cost of $6,000 each, the statement said.
During raids that led to a number of arrests, authorities also seized authentic and counterfeit Indian, South African and Schengen Zone visas and 150 passports from 10 different countries along with a laptop and smart phones.
The fake embassy was open three mornings a week and did not accept walk-in appointments. Instead, the criminals advertised on billboards in Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast and brought clients from across West Africa to Accra where they rented them hotel rooms in nearby hotels.
[Editor’s Note: Here is the State Department advisory on this story.]