Nigerian police chief Abba Kyari wanted in US over fraud

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

A top Nigerian police officer is wanted by a court in the United States to answer fraud charges.

This is after an accomplice in a multimillion-dollar con game mentioned him in a crime involving a Kenyan and several Nigerians.

Abba Kyari, 46, is the deputy commissioner of police in Nigeria, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations was ordered on Wednesday to bring him to court after details emerged he had played a role in the scam.

Kyari was named by Ramon Abbas, a Nigerian online influencer also known as Hushpuppi. Abbas had appeared in a US court as the kingpin in the case. He was arrested in Dubai and repatriated to the US earlier this month.

Pleaded guilty

Abbas has since pleaded guilty to charges of money laundering and conspiring with five others to defraud a businessperson by claiming to be consultants and bankers who could facilitate a loan to finance the construction of a school in Qatar.

Otis Wright of the District Court for the Central District of California ordered the FBI to produce Kyari.

The five accomplices named in court papers were Kenyan Abdulrahman Juma, 28 and Nigerians Chibuzo Vincent, 40, Yusuf Anifowoshe, 26, Rukayat Fashola, 28, and Bolatito Agbabiaka, 34.

Abbas is said to have used Kyari to hunt down Vincent, who had threatened to expose the deals after a dispute broke out among the gang on payments.

Vincent, who threatened to expose the $1.1 million fraud to the Qatari businessman, was later tracked down and arrested by Kyari on the instruction of Abbas.

“According to the affidavit, Kyari is a highly decorated deputy commissioner of the Nigeria police force who is alleged to have arranged for Vincent to be arrested and jailed at Abbas’ behest, and then sent Abbas photographs of Vincent after his arrest and detention in Nigeria,” the US statement said.

“Kyari also allegedly sent Abbas bank account details for an account into which Abbas could deposit payment for Vincent’s arrest and imprisonment.”

Notorious fraudster

Abbas, 37, declared a notorious fraudster in a plea agreement he personally signed, pleaded guilty to charges including money laundering and wire fraud.

A statement from the Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, said: “Court documents outline a dispute among members of the conspiracy, which allegedly prompted Vincent to contact the victim and claim that Abbas (Hushpuppi) and Juma were engaged in fraud.”

A version of Abbas’ plea agreement filed on July 27 outlines his role in the school-finance scheme, as well as several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses.

“The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari school by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretense going after the victim was tipped off,” said acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison.

According to the indictment, Abbas was assisted in laundering the proceeds of the fraud by Rukayat Motunraya Fashola, alias “Morayo,” 28, of Valley Stream, New York, and Bolatito Tawakalitu Agbabiaka, alias “Bolamide,” 34, of Linden, New Jersey, who were arrested on July 22 by FBI agents.

Richard Mille RM11-03 watch

About $230,000 of the stolen funds was allegedly used to purchase a Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which was hand-delivered to Abbas in Dubai.

Other illicit proceeds from the scheme were allegedly converted into cashier’s checks, including $50,000 in checks that were used by Abbas and a co-conspirator to fraudulently acquire St Christopher and Nevis citizenship, as well as a passport for Abbas obtained by creating a false marriage certificate and then bribing a government official in St Kitts.

“Abbas, who played a significant role in the scheme, funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists who use increasingly sophisticated means,” Ms Wilkison said.

“In conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we will identify and prosecute perpetrators of business email compromise scams, which is a massive and growing international crime problem.”

“Mr Abbas, among the most high-profile money launderers in the world, has admitted to his significant role in perpetrating global BEC fraud, a scheme currently plaguing Americans,” said Kristi K. Johnson, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

“His celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organisations and led to several spin-off schemes in the US and abroad.’’

Johnson added that the announcement of the deals is a crucial blow to the international network and will serve as a warning to potential victims targeted with this type of theft.

Kyari response

In his response to the allegation, Kyari took to his Facebook page on July 29 to dispute the claim, explaining that “Abbas, who we later came to know as Hushpuppi, called our office about 2 years ago that somebody in Nigeria seriously threatened to kill his family here in Nigeria and he sent the person’s phone number and pleaded we take action before the person attacks his family”.

Referring to Vincent, he said: “We traced and arrested the suspect and after investigations, we discovered there wasn’t an actual threat to anyone’s life and they are long-time friends who have money issues between them hence we released the suspect on bail to go and he was not taken to any jail.”

“Nobody demanded a kobo from Abbas Hushpuppi. Our focus was to save people’s lives that were purported to have been threatened,” he added.

“For those who are celebrating that this is an indictment on us and mentioning some fictitious big money, they will be disappointed once again as our hands are clean and our record of service for 2 decades is open for everybody to see,” he said.

“They will continue seeing us serving our fatherland and we will continue responding to ALL distress Calls from ALL Nigerians provided they are life-threatening.’’