This Nigerian Scammer Sold An Airport To A Bank For $242 Million

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By Mayuk Saha

The phrase confidence trickster was first coined by the famous American author Herman Melville. This is a man who manipulates someone by getting into their confidence and making them trust them, before looting them.
The greatest con-job was probably the Trojan Horse trick played by the Greeks on the Trojans.
But that is ancient history.
In today’s internet age, the web and even telephones can be dark places, with all kinds of scammers and phishers on the prowl.

This is the story of one of them, a man named Emmanuel Nwude, who managed to sell an imaginary airport to a bank nonetheless.
This happened between 1995 and 1998.
Nwude was a high-ranking bank official, a director of the United Bank of Nigeria. He used all the information and all the links he mustered in his position to scam Nelson Sakaguchi. He impersonated Paul Ogwuma, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to do it, the context that he was pitching to Sakaguchi the plan to build an airport in Abuja.

And guess what?
The gamble paid off. Nwude, impersonating Ogwuma, took Sakaguchi into confidence, making him feel empathetic to his own cause, telling him that he himself was on the verge of making $10m in commission.
Sakaguchi fell for it, paying a staggering $191m in cash, promising the rest on interest.

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Just take a moment to let that sink in.

The brave thief wasn’t alone of course. Something of this scale can never be pulled off alone.
Along with him were Emmanuel Ofolue, Nzeribe Okoli, Obum Osakwe and the couple, Christian and Amaka Anajemba.
Christian would later get killed.
The team would manage to convince the Brazilian bank to pay them too.

In 1997, Banco Santander, Spain, wanted to acquire Banco Noroeste. Then eyebrows were raised because capital worth of the Banco Noroeste’s entire value was, for some reason, present in the Cayman Islands, unguarded.
A search was ordered and a number of nations, namely USA, Brazil, Nigeria, Switzerland and UK got involved. The bank was sold, for $242m but a negative acknowledgement came back in ‘01.
Olesugun Obasanjo, the president of Nigeria, got the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission established the year after, to get to the bottom of this.
Two years later, all the members were brought to court for a staggering 86 counts of fraud and 15 counts of bribery.
As expected, the team tried to bribe their way out of things, with Nwude even attempting to bride the chairman of the EFCC himself, Nuhu Ribadu.
A year after that, into the investigation, Amaka would confess helping Anajemba trying to pay $25.5m.
He would be the first to serve time, 2.5 years.
Sakaguchi’s witness would seem to be instrumental to bagging Nwude finally.
He would be forced to appeal guilty and was sentenced to five sentences of five years each, along with a $10m fine which he was to pay to the federal government.

Such a story.
Wonder why no one made a film out of it.

IMAGE CREDIT: ammentorp

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