Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe popularly known as Owelle of Abagana is known as the biggest scammer in the history of Nigeria after he sold a fake airport to a Brazilian man called Nelson Sakaguchi for the sum of $242m. Till date, Emmanuel Nwude’s crime is known as one of the biggest banking frauds in the world. The crime also became one of the phenomena that gave rise to internet fraud commonly known as 419 in Nigeria.
Even before internet fraud became a global issue Emmanuel Nwude had committed one of the biggest scams in the world. He successfully scammed the Director at Brazil’s Banco of $242 million, $191 million in cash and the remainder in the form of outstanding interest, between 1995 and 1998.
Specifically, his fraud was the third largest banking scam in the world after Nick Leeson’s trading losses at Barings Bank, and the looting of the Iraqi Central Bank by Hussein. As a banker and former director of Union Bank of Nigeria, Emmanuel Nwude’s position made him privy to some links, information and documents.
Hence, it was easy for Emmanuel Nwude to impersonate Paul Ogwuma, the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and thereafter persuaded Mr Sakaguchito to invest in a new airport in FCT, Abuja, in exchange for a $10 million commission. The attractive commission was enough for Sakaguchi to agree to pay $191 million in cash and the remainder in the form of outstanding interest.
The fraud was not discovered until close to three years after, in August 1997, when Spanish Banco Santander wanted to take over the Banco Noroeste Brazil. During a joint board meeting, an official from Santander inquired about why a large sum of money, two-fifths of Noroeste’s total value and half of their capital, was sitting in the Cayman Islands unmonitored.
A criminal investigation was carried out in Brazil, Britain, Nigeria, Switzerland, and the United States. While the sale of the Bank proceeds, the owners of Banco Noroeste bank paid $242 million bills before its collapse in 2001. As investigation over the international scam continued, former President Olusegun Obasanjo created the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC in 2002.
In February 2004, Emmanuel Nwude and his gang were arrested and charged in the Abuja High Court with 86 counts of fraudulently seeking advance fees and 15 counts of bribery related cases. However, they pleaded not guilty at first. But the court was strict as the Abuja High Court, Justice Lawal Gumi warned them of bribing any court staff.
Emmanuel Nwude was further charged with attempted bribery of Nuhu Ribadu, the then chairman of EFCC, with $75,000 cash, as well as attempted kidnapping of a prosecution witness. Emmanuel Nwude pleaded guilty after testimony from Sakaguchi in hopes of a more lenient sentence, and was later sentenced to 29 years in prison. The whole of Emmanuel Nwude’s assets were confiscated to be returned to the victims and a $10 million fine was imposed to be paid to the Nigerian Federal Government. It was the first major conviction for the EFCC.
Emmanuel Nwude was released from prison in 2006. After his release from prison in 2006, he filed a lawsuit to recover his seized assets on the ground that some of the assets were acquired before he committed the offence. He has already reclaimed at least $52 Million. Emmanuel Nwude was later arrested again in August 19, 2016 on a 27-count charge including murder, attempted murder, and terrorism. EmmanuellNwude is presently sitting at Arkham Prison, Gotham city in Anambra State, awaiting trial for murder and other various related crime.
On August 19, 2016, the town of Ukpo in Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra was attacked by over 200 people, apparently due to a land dispute with the neighboring Abagana community. Four policemen were shot, and Emmanuel Okafor, a security guard at a construction site, was killed. The Anambra State Police Command alleged that Emmanuel Nwude was a ringleader, and arrested him on 27 charges including murder, attempted murder, and terrorist attacks. He was being held at Awka Prison in Anambra State, but was released on bail on December 8, 2016.
On Thursday 25th February 2021, Emmanuel Nwude, while testifying before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Ikeja Special Offence Court, denied knowing the source of the $242m that was transferred into his bank account. Mr. Emmanuel Nwude, after serving part of his 25 year jail term, is back in court alongside two lawyers, Emmanuel Ilechukwu and Roland Kalu. The three of them are facing a 15-count charge of forging the documents of a property Justice Oyewole had earlier ordered Mr. Emmanuel Nwude to forfeit to his victims. The property is located at Plot Y, Mobolaji Johnson street, Oregun, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. Justice Mojisola Dada adjourned the case until 24 May 2021, for continuation of trial.
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