Deep down we all love a good con – as long as we’re not on the receiving end of it.
Think of Charles Ponzi making $250,000 a day and not giving any of it back to investors as it was 1918 and people were stupid.
Think Gregor MacGregor, who amassed great fortune and adulation in the early 1800s when he convinced hundreds upon hundreds of people he was the prince of a fictional country called Poyois.
Think of the Greeks entering Troy with the help of a giant wooden subterfuge that rang no alarm bells because, presumably, people were really stupid around 1194 BC. OK, this one might not have even happened but let’s say it did. What a con!
Anyway, one that might’ve gone under the radar was the tale of Emmanuel Nwude who managed to sell an imaginary airpot to a bank for $242 million between 1995 and 1998.
Nwude was a former director of Union Bank of Nigeria, a position which made him close to links, information and documents that other people would not be aware of. He impersonated the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the time Paul Ogwuma, and connected with bank director Nelson Sakaguchi pitching him a staggering chance to get in on the country’s ‘plan to build an airport in Abuja’.
Nwude, pretending to be the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, told Sakaguchi that he was on the cusp of pocketing $10 million commission. Sakaguchi amazingly then paid $191 million in cash and the remainder by way of outstanding interest.
Alongside Nwude were Emmanuel Ofolue, Nzeribe Okoli, and Obum Osakwe, along with husband and wife duo, Christian Ikechukwu Anajemba and Amaka Anajemba. Christian was later assassinated.
The group would go on to convince the director of the Brazilian bank to part with the money.
In 1997, the Spanish Banco Santander wanted to take over the Banco Noroeste and a joint board meeting was held in December of that year. Heads of the Spanish bank noted that half of the Brazilian bank’s capital was in the Cayman Islands unprotected, which raised a few eyebrows as it was two-fiths of Noroeste’s overall value.
An investigation was carried out in Brazil, Britain, Nigeria, Switzerland, and the United States. Although the sale of the Bank still went on as the owners of the bank paid the $242 million bill, the negative acknowledgement still collapsed in 2001.
In 2002 then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, saw to the establishment of an anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In 2004, all members of the gang were brought before Abuja High Court on 86 counts of ‘fraudulently seeking advance fees’ and 15 counts of bribery related to the case . Although they pleaded not guilty, they were warned not to attempt to bribe court officials as it was suspected that money was going around.
In 2005, Amaka confessed to helping Anajemba and was asked to repay $25.5 million. On top of that, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Nwude attempted to bribe Nuhu Ribadu, who at the time was the chairman of the EFCC, with $75,000 cash but the he refused and Nwude was charged with attempted bribery.
Following Sakaguchi’s witness, Nwude finally pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five concurrent sentences of five years and was also asked to pay $10 million fine to the federal government.
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