US shuts down 'fake' embassy operating in Ghana for 10 years

It says the building flew an American flag and had a photo of Barack Obama

US shuts down 'fake' embassy operating in Ghana for 10 years

The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana | Image: US Department of State photo

The US State Department says it has shut down a 'sham' embassy in Ghana.

It says the building in Accra flew an American flag outside every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday - and had a photo of US President Barack Obama inside.

It also says signs indicated that you were in a US embassy.

"It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law," the State Department says.

The 'consular officers' were actually Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch.

The exterior of the legitimate US embassy in Accra, Ghana | Image: Image: Department of State photo

The US says the building operated "for about a decade" - with the criminals running the operation able to pay off corrupt officials to look the other way, as well as obtain legitimate blank documents to be doctored.

The building has since been shut down in a joint operation with the real US embassy in Accra, the Ghana Police Force, Ghana Detectives Bureau, and other international partners.

During the course of another fraud investigation, an informant tipped off the the assistant regional security officer investigator (ARSO-I) at the real embassy about the fake one - as well as a fake Netherlands embassy operating in Accra.

Advertising services

The investigation identified those involved in the operation, and two satellite locations (a dress shop and an apartment building) used for operations.

The fake embassy did not accept walk-in visa appointments - but instead, drove to the most remote parts of West Africa to find customers.

They would shuttle the customers to Accra, rent them a room at a hotel nearby and bring the victims to and from the fake embassies.

Some of the 150 seized passports collected during the raids (left). Some of the banking, education, and other identification paperwork seized (right) | Image: US Department of State photos

The State Department says the sham embassy also advertised their services through flyers and billboards to get customers from Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Togo.

Some of the services the embassy provided included fraudulently obtained, legitimate US visas, counterfeit visas, false identification documents for a cost of US$6,000 (€5,608).

Several suspects remain at large, but the US says Ghanaian police have warrants for their arrest and plan to pursue them.

The investigation and search for the Turkish organised crime group is ongoing.