US Embassy Accra’s “Operation Spartan Vanguard” Shuts Down Fake U.S. Embassy in Ghana

Posted: 12:23 am ET
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Via state.gov/DS

In Accra, Ghana, there was a building that flew an American flag outside every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, 7:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Inside hung a photo of President Barack Obama, and signs indicated that you were in the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. However, you were not. This embassy was a sham.

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.

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.

This past summer the assistant regional security officer investigator (ARSO-I) at the real U.S. Embassy in Accra, in cooperation with the Ghana Police Force, Ghana Detectives Bureau, and other international partners, shut down this fake embassy.

This investigation is a small part of the broader “Operation Spartan Vanguard” initiative. “Operation Spartan Vanguard” was developed by Diplomatic Security agents in the Regional Security Office (RSO) at U.S. Embassy Ghana in order to address trafficking and fraud plaguing the U.S. Embassy and the region.

During the course of another fraud investigation in “Operation Spartan Vanguard” an informant tipped off the ARSO-I about the fake U.S. embassy, as well as a fake Netherlands embassy operating in Accra.

After receiving the tip, the ARSO-I, who is the point person in the RSO shop for “Operation Spartan Vanguard” investigations, verified the information with partners within the Ghanaian Police Force. The ARSO-I then created an international task force composed of the aforementioned Ghana Police Force, as well as the Ghana Detective Bureau, Ghana SWAT, and officials from the Canadian Embassy to investigate further.

The investigation identified the main architects of the criminal operation, and two satellite locations (a dress shop and an apartment building) used for operations. The fake embassy did not accept walk-in visa appointments; instead, they drove to the most remote parts of West Africa to find customers. They would shuttle the customers to Accra, and rent them a room at a hotel nearby. The Ghanaian organized crime ring would shuttle the victims to and from the fake embassies. Locating the document vendor within the group led investigators to uncover the satellite locations and key players.

The sham embassy advertised their services through flyers and billboards to cultivate customers from Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo. 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.

The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana. (U.S. Department of State photo)

The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana. (U.S. Department of State photo)

Exterior of the legitimate U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana (U.S. Department of State photo)

Exterior of the legitimate U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana (U.S. Department of State photo)

Read in full here: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/263916.htm.

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Gay Men Allegedly Attacked Over #Orlando Condolence Photo Published by US Embassy Côte d’Ivoire

Posted: 3:50 am ET
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Gay Ivorian men who signed the Orlando condolence book at the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan were reportedly attacked by an anti-gay mob after the embassy published a photo of them on the embassy’s website.   According to the AP, the embassy contacted three LGBT organizations but did not contact the men directly prior to putting the photo online. The embassy’s press officer reportedly told the AP that the embassy “deeply regrets that any individuals were attacked based on any kind of orientation they might have.”

She added that the embassy was in contact with the men and urged them to report the attacks to the police. Nonetheless, the photo was still up on the embassy’s website early Wednesday, with Ategou saying that there had been no request to remove it.

Waaaaaah!

Pardon us for that …

As of this writing, the photo no longer appears to be anywhere on the embassy’s website or on the Wayback Machine.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015 | Cote d’Ivoire

Via State/DRL:

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No law criminalizes homosexuality. The law’s only mention of same-sex sexual activity is as a form of public indecency that carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment, the same prescribed for heterosexual acts performed in public. Antidiscrimination laws exist, but they do not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (see section 7.d.).

Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of security forces beating, imprisoning, extorting, or humiliating members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community due to their sexual orientation. Law enforcement authorities were at times slow and ineffective in their response to societal violence targeting the LGBTI community. The few LGBTI organizations in the country operated freely but with caution.

There was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, or access to education or health care. Nevertheless, societal stigmatization of the LGBTI community was widespread, and many members reported discrimination at health clinics, particularly when seeking treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Persons believed to be gay also faced societal discrimination in finding employment and housing.

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Attacks on Grand-Bassam Beach Resorts Kill 16 People in Côte d’Ivoire

Posted: 7:17 pm EDT
Updated: March 14, 2:46 am EDT
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BBC News reports that Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed at least 16 people in gun attacks on beach resorts in southern Ivory Coast. “The attackers fired on beach-goers in Grand Bassam, about 40km (25 miles) from the commercial capital Abidjan. The resort is popular with both locals and foreigners. Four of the dead were Westerners, including a French and a German national, officials say.”

 

The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan issued a couple of security messages. The first one dated March 13 with no timestamp says that the U.S. Embassy has received reports of gun shots in Grand Bassam and “advises American citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to defer travel to Grand Bassam and if you are there to shelter in place.”

The second security message also without a timestamp was issued subsequently saying that the embassy “is aware of an ‎attack in Grand-Bassam. ‎We refer you to the Cote d’Ivoire authorities for the most up-to-date information.” It also says that the embassy “advises U.S. citizens in Côte d’Ivoire to avoid any unnecessary travel until further notice.”

These messages are not on Twitter or Facebook. At 1:05 pm on March 13, Embassy Abidjan tweeted the following message, mirrored on its FB page:

 

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