4, December 2016
Washington says a fake US embassy run by organized crime gangs has been shut down in Ghana’s capital, Accra, following almost 10 years of issuing counterfeit visas and counterfeit identification documents. According to a statement released by the US Department of State late on Friday, the sham embassy was operated by “figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings” along with a Ghanaian lawyer specializing in immigration and criminal law.
The statement added that the fake diplomatic mission, with a run-down, pink two-storey building, was raided by Ghana’s security forces in summer after the real embassy in the capital received a tip-off from an informant about the matter. Several suspects were arrested, including “Turkish citizens,” who played the role of “consular officers” at the building and who spoke English and Dutch. Authorities also seized legitimate and counterfeit US, Indian, South African and Schengen Zone visas and 150 passports from 10 different countries, a laptop, a number of smart phones and counterfeit identity documents.
The criminals, according to the statement, managed to run the fake embassy unhindered during the past decade by bribing corrupt officials as well as obtaining blank bank documents to be doctored. The crime ring provided prearranged customers with authentic, but illegally obtained, US visas and fabricated identification documents, including birth certificates, at a cost of $6,000 each, the statement added. In an attempt to make the sham embassy look real, the criminals had also raised an American flag outside the building and inside they had hung a photo of US President Barack Obama. They had also placed signs indicating that applicants were in the US embassy in Ghana.
The statement also revealed that further investigations led to uncovering a fake Dutch embassy in Ghana’s capital. Visa market is a tempting target for organized crime in Africa as visas for Western countries are in high demand in the continent.