A diplomatic row now looms between the United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Nigeria’s federal government.
This is over a pressing demand for the release of wanted Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, to answer to criminal charges in the US, First News has learnt.
The FBI on Thursday secured a court order for Kyari’s arrest following his indictment in confessional statements made by Ramon Abbas, a self-confessed international fraudster, better known as Hushpuppi.
But it was also gathered that the Nigerian authorities, which were promptly contacted on Thursday, claimed they would not be stampeded into yielding Kyari to the US’ FBI until they had properly investigated the case and become convinced of his complicity.
Hushpuppi was arrested in the United Area Emirates (UAE) in June 2020 alongside 11 of his associates over allegations bordering on hacking, impersonation, scamming, banking fraud, and identity theft.
He recently made jaw-dropping confessions to the FBI, following his extradition to the US to answer to charges of large-scale global internet fraud, that he bribed Kyari, a police top hand who is widely venerated for high-profile crime-bursting and noble conducts.
The infamous fraudster had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering, facing up to 20 years in jail, in his ongoing travail.
His extradition to the US had followed after the UAE police detailed his arrest in a special operation dubbed ‘Fox Hunt 2’ where he was accused of defrauding 1.9 million victims to the tune of N168 billion.
Hushpuppi was thereafter arraigned and detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Chicago ahead of his trial.
Hushpuppi will be sentenced in the coming weeks and will forfeit some of his assets and his rights to appeal while also paying restitution to victims of his years-long fraud.
According to reports, officials said in court filings that Hushpuppi disclosed during interrogation that he paid bribes to Abba Kyari, the deputy police commissioner, to have one of his rivals arrested and jailed in Nigeria, following a dispute over a $1.1 million dupe of a Qatari businessperson.
Abbas asked Kyari to arrest and jail a fellow fraudster Kelly Chibuzor Vincent after both were locked in a dispute presumably over how to share the $1.1 million loot received from the Qatari businessperson, the report claimed.
Vincent subsequently contacted the victim and informed them that they were being scammed by a syndicate involving him and Abbas.
This elicited anger from Huhspuppi, who contacted Kyari to arrest and jail his rival over the dispute.
Abbas said Kyari sent pictures of Vincent in jail and subsequently sent his bank account number to Abbas to which a wire transfer should be made, having done a good job as sent by Abbas.
“Court documents outline a dispute among members of the conspiracy, which allegedly prompted Vincent to contact the victim and claim that Abbas and Juma were engaged in fraud.
“After this contact, Abbas allegedly arranged to have Vincent jailed in Nigeria by Abba Alhaji Kyari, 46, of Nigeria.
“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.
“Kyari also allegedly sent Abbas bank account details for an account into which Abbas could deposit payment for Vincent’s arrest and imprisonment,” U.S. Justice department said in a statement.
After the $1.1 million fraud was successful, Hushpuppi spent $230,000 on a watch and also bribed officials at St. Kitts and Nevis for his citizenship of that island country.
“Approximately $230,000 of the stolen funds allegedly were used to purchase a Richard Mille RM11-03 watch, which was hand delivered to Abbas in Dubai and subsequently appeared in Hushpuppi’s social media posts.
“Other illicit proceeds from the scheme were allegedly converted into cashier’s checks (cheques), including $50,000 in checks that were used by Abbas and a co-conspirator to fraudulently acquire a 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,” officials said.
WARRANT OF ARREST
Following Hushpuppi’s gripping revelation, a warrant of arrest was issued for Nigeria’s super cop, DCP Kyari, according to the US court documents.
Otis Wright of the United States District Court for the Central District of California ordered the FBI to track down Kyari and produce him in the United States for his role in the multi-million dollar fraud.
The FBI said Hushpuppi and Kyari had been friends and were both involved in a conspiracy to launder money.
American prosecutors first sought a court warrant to arrest Kyari on February 12, 2021, also according to court documents. Another warrant was requested on April 29, 2021.
Judge Wright’s permission for the FBI to arrest Kyari and hold him in U.S. custody was, however, unsealed on July 26, and was made public on Thursday, July 29.
KYARI DENIES ACCUSATION
But in his reaction on Thursday, Kyari said he never demanded money from Hushpuppi, stressing that “my hands are clean”.
Although he admitted knowing about the money-related dispute, the DCP disclosed that it was on the basis of the call that Vincent was arrested.
Kyari also denied that Vincent was ever jailed, adding that he was instead released on bail.
“Abbas who we later came to know as Hushpuppi called our office about two 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 attack his family,” he wrote on Instagram.
Kyari added, “We traced and arrested the suspect and after investigations, we discovered there wasn’t an actual threat to anyone’s life and that 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 for a kobo from Abbas Hushpuppi. Our focus was to save people’s lives that were purported to have been threatened.
“Later, he saw some of my native clothes and caps on my social media page and he said he liked them and he was connected to the person selling the clothes and he sent about N300k directly to the person’s account.
“The native clothes and caps (five sets) were brought to our office and he sent somebody to collect them in our office.
“Nobody demanded any money from Abbas Hushpuppi and nobody collected any money from him. We responded to a distress call he made on threat to his family and released the suspect when we discovered there was no life threat from the suspect. This is the true story. Vincent is alive, he can be contacted.”
Kyari added that all those celebrating Hushpuppi’s claims “and mentioning some fictitious big money will be disappointed once again as our hands are clean and our record of service for two decades is open for everybody to see.”
“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,” he replied.
POLICE TO ALLEGATION
However, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) will any moment hence, set up a panel to probe Kyari, top police sources disclosed to First News.
The FBI has reportedly contacted the Nigeria Police over the warrant of arrest, but there is yet no official confirmation
An international warrant of arrest can be executed through the INTERPOL but there still has to be a judicial pronouncement before Nigeria can hand over Kyari to the FBI for trial in the US, finding also revealed.
The police have been silent on the Kyari twist to the Hushpuppi saga.
But a senior officer who spoke with TheCable, and online news publication, said the police hierarchy would first take an “in-house action” before any extradition process can be discussed.
“The police headquarters will set up a high-powered panel to probe the allegations against him before we decide on what to do next.’