Usman Baba, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, has recommended the “immediate suspension” of a decorated Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, pending the outcome of investigations into corruption charges
Kyari the head of the Police Intelligence Response Team who is known as Nigeria’s ‘super cop,’ has been indicted by the FBI on bribery according to a complaints sheet in a federal suit in a federal lawsuit
DCP Kyari, 46, is wanted in the United States on charges related to wire fraud and money laundering, after one of Nigeria’s most infamous scammers, Ramon Abbas, aka ‘Hushpuppi’
Hushpuppi, 37, who is currently on trial in a California court told investigators that Kyari accepted $1.1m bribe last year to arrest an associate who betrayed his cybercrime syndicate
He is famous in Nigeria for catching notorious criminals, killers, kidnappers, bank robbers and Boko Haram extremists. Years of high-profile arrests won him acclaim and an enduring nickname: “super cop.” However, Abba Alhaji Kyari, a highly decorated Deputy Commissioner in the Nigeria Police Force, now stands accused of abusing his power to support a global fraud ring.
Kyari, 46, is wanted by the United States authorities on charges related to wire fraud and money laundering, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday in California. One of Nigeria’s most infamous scammers, Ramon Abbas, 37, who goes by “Hushpuppi” on social media, told investigators that Kyari accepted a bribe last year to arrest Kelly Chibuzor, one of his accomplices who claims betrayed his cybercrime syndicate.
“He is in my Cell now,” Kyari texted Abbas, according to the indictment.
“I want him to go through serious beating of his life,” Abbas allegedly wrote back, with the police official responding: “Hahahaha.”
Abbas in April pled guilty to charges linked to fraud in a U.S. court in California, according to court records unsealed Monday. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Kyari has denied all wrongdoing.
The Nigeria Police Force on Thursday said it had launched a probe of the FBI’s allegations.
On Sunday the Nigerian Police Force announced the suspension of DCP Kyari. Nigeria’s police chief, Inspector General Usman Baba announced his recommendation that embattled Deputy Police commissioner Abba Kyari be suspended with immediate effect.
IGP Baba, in a letter to the Police Service Commission dated July 31, 2021, noted that the recommendation for the suspension of the officer in line with the internal disciplinary processes of the Force, over the allegations of corruption made to US investigators by notorious fraudster Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi.
Usman Baba, the Inspector-General of Police, has recommended the “immediate suspension” of the Head of the Police Intelligence Response Team, DCP Abba Kyari, from the Nigeria Police Force.
The recommendation states that DCP Kyari’s suspension will be on pending the outcome of an ongoing internal investigations into his indictment for alleged involvement in internet fraud by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In one of the several cases filed against Hushpuppi in the U.S., he is accused of swindling of a Qatari man of $1.1m, a case that has ensnared Kyari, four other Nigerians and one Kenyan national.
According to the indictment, Abbas allegedly conspired with Abdulrahman Imraan Juma, aka ‘Abdul,’ 28, of Kenya, and Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, 40, of Nigeria, to defraud the Qatari businessperson by claiming to be consultants and bankers who could facilitate a loan to finance construction of the planned school.
Juma allegedly posed as a facilitator and consultant for the illusory bank loans, while Abbas played the role of ‘Malik,’ a Wells Fargo banker in New York, according to court documents.
Vincent, in turn, allegedly provided support for the false narratives fed to the victim by, among other things, creating bogus documents and arranging for the creation of a fake bank website and phone banking line.
Yusuf Adeyinka Anifowoshe, aka ‘AJ,’ 26, of Brooklyn, New York, allegedly played a role in the fraud, assisting Abbas with a call to the victim posing as ‘Malik.’
Special agents with the FBI arrested Anifowoshe in New York on July 22.
Nigeria’s top police chief, IGP Usman, in a letter to the Police Service Commission dated July 31, 2021, noted that the recommendation for the suspension of the officer was in line with the internal disciplinary processes of the Force.
A Special Investigation Panel comprising four senior police officers, was also set up to investigate the allegations against Kyari.
The statement issued Sunday by the Force spokesman, Frank Mba, noted that to an FBI criminal complaint lodged at the United States District Court in California had listed Ramon Abbas and Abba Kyari among six suspects indicted in a $1.1m international fraud conspiracy.
The other suspects include AbdulRahman ‘Abdul’ Juma, Vincent Kelly Chibuzor, aka ‘Kelly’, Rukayat Motunrayo Fashola, aka ‘Morayo’, and Bolatito Tawakalitu Agbabiaka also known as ‘Bolamide’.
Kyari, who is popularly known as ‘super cop,’ had been under fire since the FBI, last Wednesday, unsealed a 69-page court document showing that he had been under investigation by the Bureau for his alleged link to Hushpuppi, who had pleaded guilty to fraud.
In the case marked 2:21-cr-00203, USA VS Abba Alhaji Kyari dated April 29, 2021, the FBI asked a US District Court in California to order the arrest of Kyari for 10 days.
The criminal complaint that initiated the prosecution in February was also unsealed Monday, revealing that Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, better known by his social media handle “Ray Hushpuppi”, was initially charged in this case.
Court documents ordered unsealed today show that Abbas, a 37-year-old Nigerian national, pleaded guilty on April 20. A version of Abbas’ plea agreement filed late Tuesday 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 IGP in the statement said Kyari’s suspension was expected to create an enabling environment for the NPF Special Panel to carry out its investigations into the grave allegations against him without interference.
It reads, ” The suspension is without prejudice to the constitutional presumption of innocence in favor of the officer.
“The SIP comprising four senior police officers, is headed by DIG Joseph Egbunike, the Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department.
“The SIP, inter alia, is to undertake a detailed review of all the allegations against DCP Abba Kyari by the US Government as contained in relevant documents that have been availed the NPF by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
” The SIP is also to obtain detailed representation of DCP Abba Kyari to all the allegations levelled against him, conduct further investigations as it deems fit, and submit recommendations to guide further actions by the Force leadership on the matter.”
Meanwhile, the IGP has reaffirmed the commitment of the Force to the rule of law and assured the public of the sanctity of the probe as well as the absolute respect for the rights and privileges of the officer throughout the period of the investigations.
The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on any extradition requests.
In a statement on the case, acting U.S. attorney Tracy Wilkinson said the United States aims to crack down on “business email compromise,” or BEC, the type of sting favored by Abbas and his crew.
It typically starts with a perpetrator hacking a company email account, spotting an invoice, for instance, and then impersonating the intended recipient of that payment.
American businesses lost $1.8 billion from such scams in 2020, according to FBI data.
Some Nigerians rushed to Kyari’s defense, arguing that Abbas just wanted to smear an idol. But outrage has erupted on talk shows, social media and street corners.
“He is known as a no-nonsense cop who likes to do things the right way,” said Raymond Nkannebe, a 31-year-old lawyer and columnist in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.
“Imagine what this does to the morale of the nation.”
At the other extreme, a large section of the populace decry what many have termed a culture of corruption that has has permeated law enforcement in Nigeria, with officers extorting people over the years, often violently and without consequence.
The situation gained international exposure last year when thousands took to the streets in nationwide protests against police brutality. The #EndSARS movement grew out of calls to abolish the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit widely viewed as predatory.
The security forces fired on a group of demonstrators at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos during the October protests ginning international condemnation.
Although Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has pledged reform, the anger still smolders especially, after the government’s persistence in prosecuting activists who supported or participated in the protests.
Nigerians historically have a deeply uneasy relationship with police. Kyari once led the SARS unit in Lagos. His indictment only fuels more distrust, noted one #EndSARS activist.
“This is the ‘super cop’ — a top guy in top circles,” Rinu Oduala said.
“Police officers still aren’t friends of the people. They’re friends of the elites,” she said.
As Kyari racked up the accolades for law enforcement, “Hushpuppi” was attracting millions of followers on Instagram with a feed of scam-funded decadence: private jets, a turquoise Birkin bag, a wall of Nike and Chanel sneakers.
In one photo, the scammer leans against a red Ferrari. “Roll with me, baby,” he wrote. “You’ll prosper.”
Before police arrested Abbas in Dubai last year, he billed himself as an ultra-wealthy real estate developer.
In reality, he admitted in court, he ran a fraud operation that tricked victims out of $24 million.
At least $1.1 million of that amount was supposed to open a school for children in Qatar.
Abbas kept some of the stolen funds in American bank accounts, according to court records. The court blocked the identities of his victims.
When the scammer needed help, he turned to “a highly decorated deputy commissioner of the Nigeria Police Force,” FBI agents allege. Abbas messaged Kyari last year after one of his co-conspirators, Vincent Kelly Chibuzor, aka “Vincent”, turned on him, according to the indictment.
Vincent tried to warn and “steal a victim away,” Abbas told Kyari, adding that he should be beaten “like [an] armed robber,” according to the indictment.
“Please sir I want to spend money to send this boy to jail,” Abbas allegedly wrote. “Let him go for a very long time.” Kyari allegedly responded with a photo of Vincent in jail, then sent over bank details. It turns out though that the account was not listed in Kyari’s name.
On Thursday, when word of Kyari’s indictment reached the Nigerian news media, he insisted there had been a misunderstanding. “Nobody demanded any money from Abbas Hushpuppi and nobody collected any money from him,” Kyari wrote on his Facebook page.
“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.”
Later, Kyari wrote, Abbas asked him to connect him to someone selling clothes the officer had worn in photos on social media. Abbas sent 300,000 naira, [about $730] to that merchant, Kyari said.
The clothes, Kyari wrote, “were brought to our office and He sent somebody to Collect them.”
The Facebook post inspired online mockery – “Who knows the nearest police station where a tailor can drop my clothes, please?” tweeted journalist ‘Fisayo Soyombo – mixed with an outpouring of sorrow.
“I don’t like it when stars fall,” Timawus Mathias, a Nigerian media executive, wrote on his Facebook page.
“It’s like a beautiful gift held close that faded in the night.”
People in Kyari’s hometown, Maiduguri, had followed his rise with pride. The police official was credited with tracking down masterminds behind suicide bombings that had devastated the city.
A few years ago, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari awarded him a medal for courage.
“We all held him in high esteem, and most of our youth look up to him for inspiration,” said Usman Dalhatu, a 43-year-old civil servant. “It’s definitely devastating. I pray that he comes out clean.”..