Celebrated Nigerian police officer Abba Kyari wanted by FBI over Hushpuppi fraud

Kyari has been indicted in a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain and launder money.

Abba Kyari is the commander of the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team [NPF]

A high ranking police officer in Nigeria is wanted in the United States of America over his alleged link to an internet fraudster who has pleaded guilty to fraud resulting in millions of dollars in losses.

U.S. court filings unsealed this week show that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has an order to detain Abba Kyari, a deputy commissioner, for his links to Ramon Abbas, aka Ray Hushpuppi.

The celebrated police officer was indicted in a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain and launder money in partnership with the suspected fraudster arrested in Dubai last year.

Investigations by the FBI showed the two first interacted in September 2019 when Kyari travelled to the United Arab Emirates.

Hushpuppi sent him a car and a driver to drive him around on the trip, and received a video slideshow of personal photographs from the police officer.

Hushpuppi texted Kyari "Am really happy to be ur boy", and "I promise to be a good boy to u sir" in separate replies to a news article the officer sent him reporting his arrest of some alleged kidnappers.

They were reported to have kept in touch through texts and phone calls afterwards, up until May 2020, a month before the fraudster was arrested.

The link between the two was made public following the unsealing of an indictment involving the two and four others who scammed a Qatari businessperson of $1.1 million.

Court documents alleged that Hushpuppi arranged for Kyari to have his co-conspirator, Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, arrested following a disagreement over sharing of proceeds of the ongoing scam.

Vincent had contacted the victim to divert the loot to himself, prompting Hushpuppi to threaten him with repercussions which later came in the form of police intervention.

According to the affidavit, Kyari carried out the request and sent Hushpuppi photographs of a detained Vincent, as well as account details to receive his monetary reward.

As details of the link between the two trickled to the Nigerian media in bits on Thursday, July 29, 2021, the police officer denied the allegation, claiming that he was tricked into arresting Vincent over allegations he threatened Hushpuppi's family.

"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," he said.

Kyari also revealed that the suspect was immediately released on bail, but the relationship between the two didn't end there.

He said Hushpuppi had admired native clothes and caps he saw on his social media page and requested an arrangement for something similar to be made for him.

The police officer acted as middleman between the fraudster and the cloth merchant.

"Nobody demanded any money from Abbas Hushpuppi and nobody collected any money from him," he said, maintaining that his hands are clean.

Additional details that emerged after his statement heavily contradicted his claims, with cellphone records extracted from Hushpuppi's phone showing the two had an extensive relationship.

A portion of the extracted records showed Hushpuppi explicitly told Kyari that Vincent sabotaged a job he was running, and asked that his partner be given 'serious beating of his life'.

"Please sir I want to spend money to send this boy to jail, let him go for a very long time," he texted Kyari after Vincent was arrested on January 20.

"Let me know how I can send money to the team sir. Let them deal with him like armed robber," he said in another text message.

Kyari alerted Hushpuppi a month later that Vincent had fallen ill in custody, suffering from fever and rashes he got from cellmates.

Hushpuppi later told the officer to release the detainee on February 25, but without his electronic devices, a request Kyari accepted.

The records also showed the police officer provided the account information for a bank account at Zenith Bank, an account not registered in his name.

Hushpuppi in May 2020 sent the police officer receipts for two bank transactions totalling $20,600 (over N8 million) sent to a Nigerian bank account, payments speculated to have been a bribe paid to his team.

The FBI said Kyari's knowing involvement in the scheme allowed Hushpuppi and others to continue defrauding the victim undetected.

Kyari is the commander of the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team and highly regarded in security circles.

He was recently honoured by the House of Representatives for his hard work and outstanding performance.

"He is an honour to the Police force and to the country he serves," House Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said.

The 46-year-old has in the past faced serious allegations of misconduct, but faced no serious investigations.

Other co-conspirators indicted this week are Abdulrahman Juma, Rukayat Motunrayo Fashola, and Bolatito Tawakalitu Agbabiaka.

Court filings made public this week showed Hushpuppi has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering, with the schemes causing more than $24 million in losses.

He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison when he's sentenced later by a Los Angeles court.

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