State authorities in Ghana busted a fake US embassy in the capital city of Accra, but not before it ran the business for an entire decade, reported Reuters.
The US State Department said that the embassy issued authentic visas through fraudulent means. It was operated by Turkish and Ghanian organised crime rings, as well as a Ghanian attorney practising immigration and criminal law. English and Dutch-speaking Turkish citizens posed as consular officers, the State Department added.
Housed in a dingy pink building with the American flag flying outside, the sham embassy had on display on its premises a photograph of the outgoing US President Barack Obama.
A fee of $6,000 was charged to procure fake IDs and documents like birth certificates. Authentic and counterfeit Indian, South African and Schengen visas were unearthed and seized during the raids, along with 150 passports of as many as ten nationalities.
Alongside the numerous arrests made, a fake Dutch embassy too was busted in Accra in the course of the said operation.
The fake embassy would operate three mornings in a week, and its services could only be accessed by appointment. Its advertisements were carried on billboards across Ghana, Togo and Ivory coast.
Clients were cultivated and brought in from West Africa and stay-arrangements were made for them in nearby hotels in Accra.
The US State Department said that the fraudsters bribed corrupt officials to turn a blind eye to their unlawful operations. There were no comments from either Ghanaâ€™s Criminal Investigations Division or officials in the Netherlands in the matter.
The bust happened when US authorities conducted wider security operations after receiving a tip off. The team worked in tandem with personnel from the Ghana Detectives Bureau, the local police and other international partners.
There was no word from the US State Department about the number of immigrants who had entered the US using the fake embassyâ€™s services till date.