The African country of Ghana has managed to shut down a fake embassy that claimed it was acting on behalf of the United States, which had reportedly issued hundreds of fake passports — to the US as well as other countries — for a payment of $6,000 each over the duration of its functioning.
The finding has led to fears that many people were trafficked from Ghana and neighbouring countries into many nations across the world, including the US. There is also apprehension that terrorists could have used this pathway to get into various countries.
According to the US Department of State, the fake embassy was operated by "figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organised crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practising immigration and criminal law." The officers of the consulate were Turkish individuals who spoke English and Dutch.
An example of the impunity with which it ran was given thus: "For about a decade it operated 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." It was dismantled only with concerted efforts from the assistant regional security officer-investigator (ARSO-I) at the "real US Embassy in Accra" with the help of local authorities.
Widespread fraudulent operations
The fake embassy "advertised their services through flyers and billboards to cultivate customers from Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast], and Togo," said the US Department of State. People from there would often want to migrate to countries where they thought they had better prospects.
The department added: "Some of the services the embassy provided for these customers included issuance of fraudulently obtained, legitimate U.S. visas, counterfeit visas, false identification documents (including bank records, education records, birth certificates, and others) for a cost of $6,000."
Big haul from arrest
The ask force set up to raid the fake embassy "arrested several suspects and collected evidence that included a laptop computer; cell smartphones; 150 passports from 10 countries; legitimate and counterfeit visas from the US, the Schengen zone, India, and South Africa; and counterfeit identity documents."
The US State Department also said: "Several suspects remain at large, but Ghanaian police have warrants for their arrest and plan to pursue them. The investigation and search for the Turkish organised crime group is ongoing."