Ramon Olorunwa Abbas popularly known as Hushpuppi is a Nigerian Instagram celebrity who is facing criminal charges in the United States of America over conspiracy to launder money obtained from business email compromise frauds and other scams, including schemes that defrauded a U.S law firm of about $1M, illegally transferred of $14.7M from a foreign financial institution and targeted to steal $124M from an English Premier League football club. He was born on 11th October 1982 in Ajegunle, Lagos State in the south western part of Nigeria. He is currently 38 years old. He declared himself as the Gucci king and regarded as Nigeria’s most richest internet scammer.
Until his arrest by the Dubai Police in June 2020 and his extradition to the United States, Hushpuppi had a global following of over 2.5 million followers on Instagram where he posted pictures and videos of his lavish spending on exotic cars, watches, designer clothes and bags from luxury brands like Gucci, Fendi and Louis Vuitton. He also record himself boarding helicopters and private jets with celebrities, international footballers and Nigerian politicians.
He claimed to be a real estate developer. He holds a passport from St Kitts and Nevis. On the night of his arrest, his apartment at the Palazzo Versace was raided in an operation code-named Fox Hunt 2 and Hushpuppi was arrested alongside eleven others in six simultaneous raids. Dubai Police Detectives seized more than 150 million dirham (that is about $40 million) in cash, 13 luxury cars worth over 25 million dirham (that is about $7 million), 21 laptops, 47 smartphones, 15 memory storage devices, 5 external hard drives and 800,000 emails of potential victims alongside suitcases full of cash.
The arrest was part of an FBI investigation that indicted him of being a ‘key player’ in a transnational cybercrime network that provided “safe havens for stolen money around the world.” Hushpuppi lawyer Gal Pissetzky told the BBC that his client, was not a criminal and had made his money legitimately from being paid by designer brands for promotion and from real estate. Mr. Pissetzky also told the BBC that the United States of America had no authority to transport his client from Dubai.
According to his words; “In my opinion, the FBI and the United State government here acted illegally when they kidnapped him from Dubai without any legal process to do so,” Mr. Pissetzky told the BBC. “There was no extradition, there were no legal steps taken, there were no court documents filed, it was simply a call to the FBI. He is not a citizen of the United States, the US had absolutely no authority to take him.” But the Dubai police said in a Facebook post that the FBI director had thanked them for extraditing the two men. “You’ll have to ask them about why they called it an extradition,” a Department of Justice spokesman responded in an email to the BBC.
Hushpuppi was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He relocated to Malaysia in search for green and pastures and later migrated from Malaysia to the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) where he live till his arrest. He admitted to fathering a child in 2013. According to a friend, Hushpuppi had his secondary school education in Government College, Ikorodu, Lagos State. Many news platforms also reported that Hushpuppi was once a second-hand clothes seller in Lagos. Hushpuppi prided himself on his humble beginnings.
In an exclusive post in which it interviewed old neighbors of Hushpuppi, the Cable News reported that Hushpuppi had a reputation as a ‘Yahoo boy’ a local name for a cyber criminal, which was not supported by his mother and had not lifted any of his old friends from poverty. He also ignored multiple warnings regarding his lifestyle. He is known to put inspirational captions on his posts.
He is the subject of a 2017 song ‘Telli Person’ by Nigerian singer Timaya featuring Olamide and Phyno with whom he had a long running feud. The song contained lyrics directed towards Hushpuppi indirectly accusing him of being a swindler and lavishing his money on designer clothes instead of investing in profitable ventures and warning him that he would soon be caught by authorities. Many viewed the song as a prophetic warning that was fulfilled with his arrest.
Upon his arrival in the United States on July 3, 2020 he was accused of conspiring to launder ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’. According to an FBI affidavit, Hushpuppi and others had committed a Business Email Compromise scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019.
Hushpuppi and his co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm’s paralegals into wiring money intended for the client’s real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Hushpuppi and the co-conspirators. Hushpuppi and his co-conspirators had laundered $396,050 while one of them was in Los Angeles, California in the United States of America.
The affidavit also accused Hushpuppi and a co-conspirator of conspiring to launder funds intended to be stolen through fraudulent wire transfers from a foreign financial institution in which fraudulent wire transfers, totaling approximately US$14.7 million, were sent to bank accounts around the world in February 2019. Though the affidavit did not name any bank, according to Forbes, the date of the attack and amount mentioned in the affidavit matched that of the attack on Malta’s Bank of Valletta in February 2019.
In February 2019, $14.7 million was transferred out of the bank through false international transactions to accounts in the United States, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Hong Kong. The attack was of such seriousness in Malta that the then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was forced to address parliament. Multiple sources in Malta including Time of Malta and Malta Today also repeated Forbes’s claims that Hushpuppi could have been behind the attack.
According to the affidavit, Hushpuppi had provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe anticipating the receipt of $5.6 million each of the fraudulently obtained funds. According to the affidavit, other communications between Hushpuppi and one of his co-conspirators indicated that the two had conspired to “launder tens and at times hundreds of millions of dollars that were proceeds of other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including a fraudulent scheme to steal £100 million (that is $124 million) from an English Premier League football club.
Hushpuppi is also accused of committing fraud in Nigeria. He is wanted by Nigeria’s financial crime police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. A request for his bail and the chance to stay with his girlfriend’s uncle in Homewood, Illinois was denied on the grounds that presented a risk of non-appearance.
At Hushpuppi detention hearing, his lawyer, Pissetzky told the court that his client posed no flight risk because of the damage it would do to his credibility online, adding that he is loved and respected. He is a celebrity. He would not want to ruin his credibility and status rather than stay here and face these allegations. The Prosecutors cited his significant financial assets, “deep ties to foreign countries” and a lack of ties to the United States. If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, Hushpuppi would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison after which he will be deported.
Before his arrest, Hushpuppi has an estimated net worth of $30 million making him one of the richest celebrity in Nigeria. He declared himself the Billionaire Gucci Master.
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