A fake US embassy uncovered in Accra Ghana, after over a decade of issuing visas and executing other diplomatic tasks for a decade.
The US State Department said until it was shut down, the sham embassy was housed in a run-down, pink two-storeyed building with a corrugated iron roof and flew a US flag outside.
It also had a portrait of President Barack Obama.
“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,” the State Department said in a statement.
Turkish citizens, who spoke English and Dutch, posed as consular officers and staff in the operation. Investigations also uncovered a fake Dutch embassy, the State Department said.
The crime ring issued fraudulently obtained but legitimate US visas and false identification documents, including birth certificates at a cost of $6,000 each.
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; and the State Department did not say how many people were believed to have illegally entered the United States and other countries using visas issued by the crime ring, which used bribery to operate unhindered.
“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.