The Nigerian super sleuth wanted in the US
Abba Kyari has a reputation in Nigeria as a “super cop”.
He is a highly decorated police officer who investigates major criminal cases. And he hangs out with politicians and celebrities.
But Mr Kyari’s reputation has come under intense scrutiny since U.S. law enforcement said he was wanted on allegations of links to Instagram influencer and fraudster Ray Hushpuppi.
The police officer denies any wrongdoing.
To Mr. Kyari’s critics, the allegations come as no surprise. They point out that the 46-year-old – celebrated by President Muhammadu Buhari as a hero – has in the past faced allegations of corruption and human rights violations in Nigeria.
Mr. Kyari, who holds the post of Deputy Commissioner, dismissed all the allegations as false, and no action has ever been taken against him in relation to the allegations.
Suspended by the police
Ken Henshaw, director of We The People, a human rights organization, said Mr. Kyari was rewarded with a system of patronage that in some cases even punished people with integrity.
“The charges against him are consistent with those against the Nigerian police and his senior officers in the past,” Henshaw said.
But the Nigeria Police Commission was forced to suspend Mr. Kyari.
This came after US officials bombed last week announcing that they had initiated indictment proceedings against him over allegations he facilitated payments to Nigerian police personnel in Hushpuppi, of his real name Ramon Abbas.
The BBC has contacted Mr. Kyari for comment.
Hushpuppi – who had 2.4 million Instagram followers – pleaded guilty to money laundering in the United States after being extradited from Dubai last year.
Impersonating a real estate developer in the Gulf state, the 37-year-old Nigerian often posted pictures of his lavish lifestyle and had a category of videos called Flexing – the social media jargon to show off.
But he had actually been part of a global cybercrime syndicate that defrauded organizations and individuals of nearly $ 24million (£ 17million), court documents show.
“Hushpuppi’s money was for clothes”
US officials allege in an affidavit that Hushpuppi convinced Mr. Kyari to arrest Vincent Chibuzor, with whom he had fallen out.
Mr. Kyari reportedly sent Hushpuppi details of a bank account to deposit payment for the arrest, the statement said.
A now deleted response on his Facebook page called the allegations “false” and said Hushpuppi only paid for clothes that were made for him.
“He saw some of my native clothes and caps on my social media page and said he liked them,” he apparently posted on Facebook, adding that Hushpuppi had sent money for the tailor.
A US court document submitted by the FBI shows details of alleged WhatsApp conversations between the policeman and the Instagram-cum-fraudster celebrity.
The alleged messages allege that Hushpuppi paid 8 million naira ($ 19,000; £ 14,000) into accounts linked to the Nigerian police, details of which were provided by Mr. Kyari, to detain Mr. Chibuzor.
“No one asked for money”
In a message, Hushpuppi reportedly said, “Tell me how I can send money to the team, sir. Let them treat him like an armed robber,” to which Mr. Kyari reportedly replied: “Okay, I’ll send you their account details.”
Mr. Kyari also denied this in the deleted Facebook post.
“No one asked for money from … Hushpuppi and no one received any money from him.”
Instead, he said, he was responding to a distress call from Hushpuppi who claimed that a threat had been made against his family.
Abducted children rescued
Mr. Kyari is one of the most decorated police officers Nigeria has ever had.
He received a Presidential Medal of Courage from Mr Buhari in 2016 after his team rescued three kidnapped schoolgirls in Lagos.
He was also honored by the Lagos State Government, winning the First Prize for Bravery three years in a row between 2011 and 2013.
His team is the “go to” unit for high profile cases.
When the convoy of the governor of Benue State was ambushed by suspected cattle ranchers in March, they were dispatched to hunt down the attackers.
Mr Kyari’s team was also called in when the mother of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), was kidnapped in 2015.
He harnessed the power of social media to showcase his police triumphs and lifestyle and could be mistaken for an Instagram influencer.
His page is a celebration of glitz and glamor.
There are photos of him with movie stars, politicians and even one with Nigeria’s world music icon Davido. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of any of them.
But some say there is another side to Mr. Kyari.
As recently as December, a businessman, Afeez Mojeed, accused him of extortion. He was testifying before the Lagos judicial panel investigating the late Sars police unit, known for its extrajudicial killings.
At the time, Mr. Kyari was Sars’ second in command in Lagos. The officer was charged with detaining Mr Mojeed in 2014 and stealing money from him.
Mr. Kyari’s lawyer denied doing anything wrong.
In 2019, Nigeria’s Independent National Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International accused Mr. Kyari of using property confiscated from a suspected kidnapper, who had been killed by another police unit, for his personal benefit. .
Again, Mr. Kyari denied any wrongdoing and told the Premium Times news site that as a police officer he had “the legal authority to confiscate property without a court order.”
Mr Kyari first rose to prominence nationally when his team arrested an alleged kidnapping kingpin in 2017. But he was also accused by the suspect of extorting money and extorting money from him. having abused women linked to him.
The officer denied the charges and said the kidnapping suspect, who is currently on trial, attempted to bribe him.
Mr Henshaw admitted that “nothing has come out” of the cases against Mr Kyari in Nigeria, he should be extradited to the United States to stand trial for his alleged links with Hushpuppi.