A sham U.S embassy run in Accra, by a criminal network and which has been issuing visas illegally for one decade has been busted by the Authorities in Ghana.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that, until its shutdown 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 it and hung the portrait of U.S. President, Barack Obama, inside it.
It was also noted in the statement that “it was not operated by the United States Government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organised crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law.”
It was reported that 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 rooms in nearby hotels.
The fraudsters hired Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch who posed as consular officers and staffed the operation.
They issued fraudulently obtained but legitimate U.S. visas and false identification documents, including birth certificates at a cost of 6,000 dollars each.
However, the U.S. State Department statement, did not say how the gang obtained the authentic visas and it neither stated how many people were believed to have illegally entered the U.S. 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.
The statement gave the real U.S. Embassy in Ghana as a prominent and heavily fortified complex in Cantonments, one of the capital’s most expensive neighbourhoods.
U.S. 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.
There was no immediate comment from Ghana’s Criminal Investigations Division.
Written by Okolo Ezinne