State Department officials are pretending to scratch their heads over the bust of a “fake” U.S. embassy operating in the Ghanaian capital of Accra that was issuing valid U.S. visas to Ghanaians, Togolese, Ivorians, and others for a whopping $6000.
After Ghanaian authorities rolled up the fake embassy, said to have been operated by Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime syndicates, State Department officials claimed that the criminals who ran the “embassy” paid off corrupt officials to “look the other way.”
However, corrupt Ghanaian government officials do not issue valid U.S. visas, U.S. State Department foreign service officers are responsible for the control and issuance of visas.
WMR exposed U.S. visa fraud involving U.S. foreign service personnel in a series of articles beginning ten years ago.
Ironically, the “fake” embassy in Accra operated for about ten years and advertised its visa services on billboards across Ghana, Togo, and Cote d’Ivoire.
In addition to valid U.S. visas, the bogus embassy also sold counterfeit birth certificates, bank account, statements, diplomas, and other documents.
After WMR’s exposé ten years ago, the State Department took no action to stem the tide of U.S. visas falling into the hands of unscrupulous operators.
The State Department saw a number of foreign nationals, people officially acting on behalf of the State Department, processing the issuing of U.S. visas.
This was due to outsourcing contracts granted by the State Department to private visa companies owned, in many cases, by friends and families of foreign employees of U.S. embassies around the world. WMR’s investigation of U.S. visa fraud was based on a State Department whistleblower coming forward with details of the outsourced visa processing fraud.
Fake U.S. embassy in Accra had a photo on the wall of President Obama, a U.S. flag flying outside, and a few “white people” for authenticity purposes
As is usual for the largely incompetent State Department, the fake embassy was rolled up in a joint Ghanaian-U.S. law enforcement operation given the hyped-up title “Operation Spartan Vanguard” by the equally-incompetent State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.
The State Department, always seeking to avoid responsibility for its misdeeds, blamed the entire affair on a Ghanaian-Turkish crime ring.
On August 28, 2006, WMR reported on how the U.S. visa issuing process was being outsourced to cronies with no accountability for the visa fee funds received from U.S. embassies abroad.
We reported on what was occurring with the “I-Visa,” a special visa required for journalists wishing to visit the United States, however, the same scams exist with other visas, including J visas for scholars, researchers, and au pairs; B-1 visas for business people; Q visas for cultural exchange visitors, and B-2 visas for tourists.
Our 2016 report:
“Certain U.S. embassies, like those in Copenhagen and Berlin, through a bank wire contrivance, require visa fees to be paid into special bank accounts established by the various U.S. embassies.
In Germany, the Bush cronies have cut a deal with a small outfit called Roskos and Meier OHG, a 23-person subsidiary of the giant banking consortium, Alianz Group.
Roskos and Meier has only been around since 1994 when Messrs. Roskos and Meier formed their company to provide insurance and financial services in the Berlin-Brandenburg area.
Now they have a lucrative sweetheart deal with the U.S. embassy to confirm that visa fees have been paid from individuals applying for visas at the Berlin embassy and Frankfurt consulate.
The visa payments go to a special account established at Dresdner Bank AG Berlin, Bank Routing Number (BLZ): 120 800 00, Account No. (Kontonr.): 405 125 7600.
In Denmark, the journalist visa money (600 Danish Kroner) is wired to a special embassy account at the Jyske Bank Reg. No. 5013, account number 200200-2.
Internet banking or bank-to-bank payments are not permitted. The U.S. embassy in Helsinki requires journalists to pay 85 Euros into Nordea Bank account #221918-16629.
We have now been informed that the US visa application process is being further outsourced by the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to outside local contractors in cities around the world.
The Bush administration claims it is tightening up U.S. border patrols. The State Department’s program clearly shows that the Bush claims about national security are fraudulent.
If someone wishes to apply for a visa to come to the United States, the visa applicant contacts a non-U.S. embassy local contractor to apply for a visa.
After the individual pays the visa application fee, they are given a phone number and a PIN number.
The applicant phones a Call Center and has up to 8 minutes to ask questions.
The applicant is then given an appointment date by the Call Center. When the applicant arrives at the U.S. embassy Visa Section, the applicant’s documents are screened by another local contractor in a waiting room before the applicant presents himself or herself for an interview at the consular window with an American Consular Officer.
This system, worthy of the Soviet bureaucracy, increases the number of applicants processed per day.
With the application fee being non-refundable, whether or not a visa is issued, the number of applicants in one U.S. embassy in Latin America is 300 in one day at $100 per application, that is $30,000 for one day at one US embassy.
With most of the document scrutiny placed in the hands of private contractors, where fraud is more rampant than it is among U.S. consular officials, the Bush administration is putting up for sale entry to the United States.
Security is being sacrificed for increased visa revenues, most of which go to slush funds in foreign bank accounts.
In 2006, 5,836,718 Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visas were issued by U.S. Visa issuing offices around the world.
At $100 per visa, that equals a potential total of $583,671,800 in visa fees being collected by private contractors under the new outsourcing system. That does not include the local bribes and kickbacks.
“In Spain, $100 in Euros must be deposited with the Banco Santander Central Hispano (BSCH), bank account: 0049-1803-54-2210316035. In China, a visa application fee of 810 RMB (US$101) can only be paid at selected branches of the CITIC Industrial Bank.
In the United Arab Emirates, the $100 application fee must go to the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. In Cyprus, 46 Cyprus Pounds (US$ 102) lands in special LAIKI Bank account “American Embassy – MRV — Account Number: 070-21-074824.
At the U.S. embassy in London, they accept credit cards (but no debit cards) or bank transfer or bank cash payments (Bank Giro) to a Barclays Bank special account.”
Morten Torkildsen, a special investigator for the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, stated the following concerning the Nicosia U.S. embassy’s favorite Cypriot bank in a 58-page report on Slobodan Milosevic’s secret foreign holdings.
‘Popular (LAIKI) Bank, the island’s second largest bank, allowed a group of Yugoslav-controlled front companies to operate in defiance of UN sanctions.
These companies supplied Mr. Milosevic’s government with fuel, raw materials, spare parts and weapons to pursue wars in Bosnia in 1992-1996 and in Kosovo in 1998-1999.’
LAIKI’s largest shareholder (at 22 percent) is the powerful Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).
Even with all the questions surrounding LAIKI Bank and its involvement in money laundering for Milosevic and his regime, the Cypriot bank easily purchased Belgrade, Serbia-based Centrobanka in January 2005.
Just think of all the various and differing U.S. embassy visa application fee requirements and bank accounts in all the countries around the world. Considering all the other financial malfeasance in the Bush administration, to what degree are these accounts audited? Can anyone spell ‘slush fund?’
The day after our 2006 report, The Hindu newspaper of India reported: ‘A senior State Department official has been charged with accepting gifts and trips to Las Vegas and New York with exotic dancers from an Indian national to speed up the visa process for a jewelry company.
The official, Michael John O’Keefe, deputy Non Immigrant Visa Chief at the American Consulate in Toronto was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges, according to an indictment unsealed on Friday.
Sunil Agrawal, a native of India and the chief executive of New York-based STS Jewels, has also been charged.
It is said that Agrawal sent the State Department visa official the names of employees who needed to work in the company and O’Keefe apparently scheduled them outside the normal visa process.
According to the indictment, O’Keefe supposedly ‘fast tracked’ the applications and brushed aside objections from a subordinate who had noted that terrorists use jewellery to raise money.
In return for the expedited service, O’Keefe was plied with gifts.
Friday’s indictment, however, describes a scheme in which O’Keefe fast-tracked applications and approved some that had been rejected. The prosecution has said that this June after five approval visas for STS Managers, O’Keefe and two exotic dancers flew to Las Vegas.’
It is virtually impossible to recoup visa fees, even when the embassy makes a mistake.
From our 2006 report:
‘. . . refunds of fees are rarely granted, and generally only in cases in which the embassy has made an error in processing the visa application. In the case in which a visa request has been refused or an applicant has erroneously paid the fee twice, a refund will not be approved.’ But it gets worse.
What happens if the visa payment confirmation is delayed for some reason? Well, the journalist can call the U.S. Visa Information Service. But it is at a cost.
Callers are charged 1.86 Euros (US$2.37) per minute.
In Spain and Andorra, the US embassy in Madrid has figured out another phone scam. Landline phone inquiries about US visa status in Spain cost 1.09 Euros per minute but if someone calls on a cell phone, the charge is higher, 1.51 Euros per minute ($1.93/minute).
That can get pretty expensive if some bureaucratic nincompoop puts a caller on hold.
If a journalist phones the U.S. visa line in Spain from, say, Morocco or Portugal, an additional $10 per transaction charge is assessed. But you can charge that to your Visa or Master Card.’
On August 21, 2007, WMR ran an additional report on U.S. visa fraud, this time concerning Israel.
‘The Israeli media is reporting that Chief Superintendent Asher Ben-Artzi, the chief of Israel’s INTERPOL branch, is under official police investigation for using his contacts at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem to help wanted criminals in Israel obtain visas to visit the United States.
The Russian government has a number of pending arrest warrants, including INTERPOL Red Notice arrest warrants, for dual Russian-Israeli citizens, many millionaires and billionaires, who are living in exile in Israel or are traveling on Israeli passports.’
American visas continue to be for sale to the highest bidder, whether or not they have a background with ISIL, Al Qaeda, or the Kosher Nostra Mafia.”
WMR followed up its initial report on visa fraud in 2015:
“It is also noteworthy that after WMR posted information discovered on the U.S. Islamabad embassy website about the involvement of contractors at U.S. diplomatic missions in Pakistan, the State Department quickly scrubbed the information faster than it deleted emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private email server.”
The following paragraph appeared on the website of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad before it was deleted:
“The Embassy and Consulate General of the United States of America in Islamabad and Karachi, Pakistan will transition to a new appointment and document delivery service for the non-immigrant visa unit as of August 24, 2014.
This new system, which is being implemented in phases at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, is designed to be more comprehensive and user-friendly.
It replaces the current appointment system of scheduling at Amex and Speedex locations in Pakistan, though these contractors will also be involved in the new system.
If the outsourcing to contractors is problem-free, it is certain the State Department, which is a notorious center of status quo enthusiasm, would not have pulled down the reference to contractors.
Amex refers to American Express Travel Services in Pakistan, which is but one of several contractors involved in handling U.S. visa applications.”
Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist who consistently exposes cover-ups from deep within the government. Want to be the first to learn the latest scandal? Go to WayneMadsenReport.com subscribe today!