Lily Kuo | Quartz | December 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

A Fake U.S. Embassy Operating in Ghana for the Past Decade Has Been Shut Down

Fake passports confiscated during a raid on a fake US embassy in Accra, Ghana. State Department photo

For the last decade, a fake US embassy has been operating in Accra, Ghana. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, from morning until half noon, an American flag would fly outside a faded pink building. Inside, beneath a photo of president Barack Obama, staff posing as consular officials, took visa applications from unsuspecting Ghanians and other West Africans. The office also issued fake passports, visas, and other documents for about $6,000 a service.

The operation has now been shut down, according to the US state department. Staff at the real US embassy in Accra, after getting a tip about the fraudulent embassy, raided the operation this summer with the help of Ghanaian security. Authorities recovered 150 passports, as well as fake visas for the US, the EU’s Schengen zone, India, and South Africa. Three men were arrested, according to Ghanaian police.

The exterior of a now-closed building in Accra that purported to be a US embassy. (State Department)

The faux embassy is part of a larger problem of travel document fraud in the region, fueled in large part by the difficulty of getting travel visas as an African. In January, another group of men, who recruited customers from foreign embassies after they had been refused a visa, was also arrested. They were found with 190 passports, according to local media.

Visa paperwork seized during a raid on a fake US embassy operating in Accra. (State Department)

In response, the US embassy in Ghana has launched a campaign, “Operation Spartan Vanguard,” to shut down other fraudulent operations. A fake Dutch embassy has also been operating in the city, according to the state department.

According to the state department, the scheme was run by Turkish and Ghanians syndicates with the help of some Ghanaian officials. The operation in Accra was done with the tacit approval of officials, openly advertising its services on flyers and billboards throughout the country. Two satellite locations, a dress shop and an apartment, were also used. The dress shop, which did sell dresses as well as make alterations, used its industrial sewing machine for the binding of fake passports.

“The investigation and search for the Turkish organized crime group is ongoing,” the embassy said in an article about the case. “Criminal leaders no longer have the political cover they once had… this is only the beginning.”

Comments
JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.