Accra-cadabra: Fake US Embassy in Ghana shut down after a decade of issuing counterfeit visas
The US Department of State revealed in a statement that the sham embassy was run by Ghanian and Turkish criminals as well as a Ghanaian attorney who practiced immigration and criminal law.
The bizarre enterprise operated for around 10 years at a property in the capital Accra, where the real US embassy is also located.
The fake embassy flew an American flag outside the building three days a week and hung a photo of President Barack Obama inside while it issued fraudulent documents at a cost of $6,000 to prearranged clients.
Services were advertised through flyers and billboards in Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire and Togo. Customers were driven in from some of the most remote parts of West Africa and put up in a hotel during their visit to the fake embassy.
In addition to visas, fake bank records, education records and birth certificates were also issued by the "consular officers," who were English- and Dutch-speaking Turkish citizens. The operation ran without interruption due to the cooperation of corrupt officials and the ability to obtain legitimate blank documents to be doctored, according to the State Department.
Fake US embassy in Ghana ran by Turks, by Naija standard of fraud that deserves a grade A award.. pic.twitter.com/8Mt6Ms8hvK— Wale Gates 🇳🇬🇬🇧 (@walegates) December 3, 2016
Two satellite locations, including a dress shop which acted as a front for the operation and a base for document production, were also used.
Diplomatic Security agents in the Regional Security Office (RSO) at the US Embassy in Ghana were tipped off to the sham embassy during a wider investigation aimed at tackling trafficking and fraud.
They were also alerted to a fake Netherlands embassy operating in Accra.
An international task force made up of the Ghana Police Force, the Ghana Detective Bureau, Ghana SWAT, and officials from the Canadian Embassy then joined the investigation and conducted raids resulting in several arrests.
Some 150 passports from 10 countries, legitimate and counterfeit visas from the US, the Schengen zone, India, and South Africa, and counterfeit IDs were seized, along with a laptop and smartphones.
Authorities are still searching for several suspects and an investigation into the Turkish organized ring is ongoing. Interpol and the Bureau of Consular Affairs have been contacted with the relevant details by Ghanaian officials.