A raid conducted by authorities in Ghana shut down a fake U. S. embassy that was set up and run by a crime ring who issued legitimate visas and other documents to anyone who could pay for them.
It is not yet known where they got the genuine U. S. passports, birth certificates, visas, and other documents. Such documents for other countries were also found at the site.
It is also not known how many of these documents were used to illegally enter the U. S. over the past ten years.
Authorities in Ghana have busted a fake US embassy in the capital Accra run by a criminal network that for a decade issued illegally obtained authentic visas, the US State Department said.
Until it was shut down this summer, the sham embassy was housed in a run-down, pink two-story building with a corrugated iron roof and flew a US 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.
The crime ring issued fraudulently obtained but legitimate US visas and false identification documents, including birth certificates at a cost of $6,000 (£4,700) 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 statement did not say how the gang obtained the authentic visas or how many people were believed to have illegally entered the US and other countries using visas issued by the crime ring.
“The criminals running the operation were able to pay off corrupt officials to look the other way, as well as obtain legitimate blank documents to be doctored,” the statement said.
There was no immediate comment from Ghana’s Criminal Investigations Division.
Visas for Western countries are in high demand in Africa and embassies say the visa market is a big target for organised crime.
. . . . The real US embassy in Ghana is a prominent and heavily fortified complex in Cantonments, one of the capital’s most expensive neighbourhoods. Lines of people queue outside each day for visa appointments and other consular business.
The featured image for this post is of the fake U. S. embassy in Ghana; here’s what the real one looks like:
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.
US authorities conducting a broader security operation were tipped off about it and assembled a team including the Ghana Detectives Bureau and police as well as other international partners to shut down the ring.
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.