A fake US embassy has been operating from a run-down building in Accra, the capital of Ghana, western Africa, for a decade.
From it, criminals from Ghana and Turkey issued authentic visas which had been obtained fraudulently. The sham embassy flew a US flag and had a picture of President Barack Obama on the wall.
Not the US embassy (US State Department)
"It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organised crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law," the US State Department announced.
The embassy, situated in a two-storey building with a corrugated iron roof, was shut down recently. A raid uncovered legitimate US visas, as well as a mixture of authentic and fake visas and passports from 10 different countries, including India, South Africa and China.
"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," the State Department said.
The real US embassy in Ghana is a heavily fortified complex in a wealthy part of the city, not far from the Australian High Commission and the Israeli, Russian and Italian embassies.
The real US embassy in Ghana (US State Department)
The phony embassy was only open three days a week, and would-be customers had to make appointments to be seen. The criminals advertised their services on billboards around the city.
The State Department did not say if it knew how many people had entered the US on a visa issued by the fake embassy.