A fake US embassy in Accra run by a criminal network has been busted by authorities in Ghana.
According to the US State Department, the sham embassy has been in operation for a decade issuing illegally obtained authentic visas.
Until it was shut down, it was housed in a run-down, pink two-story building with a corrugated iron roof and flew a US flag outside.
Inside hung a portrait of US President Barack Obama.
“It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practising immigration and criminal law,” the State Department said in a statement released late on Friday.
Turkish citizens, who spoke English and Dutch, posed as consular officers and staffed the operation.
The crime ring issued fraudulently obtained but legitimate US visas and false identification documents, including birth certificates at a cost of US$6,000 each, the statement said.
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.