Ghanaian authorities have finally busted a fake U.S. embassy that had been operating in Accra, Ghana’s capital, for 10 years.
The embassy, run by a network of criminals in Ghana, had been issuing illegally obtained authentic visas at a cost of $6,000 each, according to the U.S. State Department.
The embassy flew an American flag outside its establishment each Monday, Tuesday, and Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., while inside they hung a photo of the U.S. President Barack Obama to depict that it was a genuine U.S. 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 ‘consular officers’ were Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch,” the U.S. State Department said in a recent report.
For a whole decade, the fake embassy operated without interruption as the owners were able to pay off corrupt officials to look the other way as it illegally obtained legitimate blank visas to be doctored.
Operation Spartan Vanguard
With the help of officials from the Canadian Embassy, Ghanaian authorities were able to trace the fake embassy and carry out several raids in an operation dubbed “Operation Spartan Vanguard.”
The operation was an initiative of diplomatic security agents in the regional security office (RSO) at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana in an effort to address the problems of human trafficking and fraud, which are rampant in Ghana.
An informant tipped off the RSO in Accra about the existence of the fake U.S. embassy during another fraud investigation in Operation Spartan Vanguard, according to the State Department.
The raids were carried out by a special taskforce comprised of the Ghana Police Force, Ghana Detective Bureau, Ghana SWAT, and officials from the Canadian Embassy.
The phony embassy was located in an apartment building that also served as a dress shop. However, the embassy did not accept walk-in visa applications; instead, the owners opted to travel to remote parts of Ghana for customers.
While several members of the organized crime group were arrested during the raids, including the criminal attorney, other suspects are still at large.
Sixty years after independence, human trafficking still remains a major challenge in Ghana, with children and women being the common victims.
Most of these people are either trafficked nationally or internationally to work as slaves and prostitutes.