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Emmanuel Nwude 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.
Even before internet fraud became a global issue Emmanuel Nwude had committed one of the biggest scams in the world. He successfully swindled the Director at Brazil’s Banco Noroeste based in São Paulo, 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 the Nick Leeson’s trading losses at Barings Bank, and the looting of the Iraqi Central Bank by Qusay Hussein.
As a banker and former director of Union Bank of Nigeria, Nwude’s position made him privy to some links, information and documents.
Hence, it was easy for Nwude to impersonate Paul Ogwuma, the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and thereafter persuaded Mr Sakaguchi 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 proceeded, 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 to the case.
However, they pleaded not guilty at first. But the court was strict as the Abuja High Court Judge, Lawal Gumi warned them of bribing any court staff.
Emmanuel Nwude was further charged with attempted bribery of Nuhu Ribadu, 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 sentenced to 29 years in prison collectively, with Nwude receiving five concurrent sentences of five years, totaling 25.
The entirety of Nwude’s assets were confiscated to be returned to the victim and a $10 million fine was imposed to be paid to the Nigerian Federal Government. It was the first major conviction for the EFCC.
Nwude was released from prison in 2006.
After his release from prison in 2006, Nwude filed a lawsuit to recover his seized assets on the ground that some of the assets were acquired before he committed the offence.
Emmanuel Nwude was later to be arrested again in August 19, 2016 on a 27-count charge including murder, attempted murder, and terrorism.
Nwude presently sits in one of the cells at the creatively-named Arkham Prison, Gotham city in Anambra State, awaiting trial for murder.