Hushpuppi

Ramon Abbas, commonly known as Hushpuppi, Hush or Ray Hushpuppi (born October 11, 1982) is a Nigerian Instagram celebrity[2] who is facing criminal charges in the United States for conspiracy to launder money obtained from business email compromise frauds and other scams, including schemes that defrauded a U.S. law firm of about $40M, illegally transferred $14.7M from a foreign financial institution and targeted to steal $124M from an English football club until his arrest by the Dubai Police in June 2020 and his extradition to the United States,[3][1][4][5] Abbas had a global following of over 2.5 million followers on Instagram where he posted pictures and videos of his lavish spending on exotic cars, watches, designer clothes, bags from luxury brands like Gucci, Fendi and Louis Vuitton and of himself boarding helicopters, with celebrity, footballers and Nigerian politicians or while on charter jets.[6] He claimed to be a real estate developer. He holds a passport from St Kitts and Nevis.

Ramon Olorunwa Abbas
Born
Ramon Olorunwa Abbas

c. 1980-1983[1]
NationalityNigeria, St. Kitts and Nevis
Other namesHushpuppi, Hush, Ray Hushpuppi, The Billionaire Gucci Blaiso
OccupationInternet celebrity
Years active2011-present
Known forBusiness email compromise and money laundering

On the night his apartment at the Palazzo Versace was raided in an operation code-named Fox Hunt 2, Abbas was arrested alongside eleven others in six simultaneous raids, detectives seized more than 150 million dirham (about $40 million) in cash, 13 luxury cars worth Dh 25 million ($7M), 21 laptops, 47 smartphones, 15 memory storage devices, 5 external hard drives and 800,000 emails of potential victims alongside suitcases full of cash.[7][8][9] The arrest was part of an FBI investigation that indicted him of being a 'key player' in a transnational cybercrime network that provided "safe havens for stolen money around the world."[9]

Mr Abbas' lawyer Gal Pissetzky told the BBC that his client was not a criminal and had made his money legitimately from being paid by designer brands for promotion and from real estate.[10] Mr Pissetzky also told the BBC that the United States had no authority to transport his client from Dubai. "In my opinion, the FBI and the government here acted illegally when they kidnapped him from Dubai without any legal process to do so," Mr Pissetzky told the BBC. "There was no extradition, there were no legal steps taken, there were no court documents filed, it was simply a call to the FBI. He is not a citizen of the United States, the US had absolutely no authority to take him." But the Dubai police said in a Facebook post that the FBI director had thanked them for extraditing the two men. "You'll have to ask them about why they called it an extradition," a Department of Justice spokesman responded in an email to the BBC.

LifeEdit

Abbas was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He later emigrated to Malaysia and subsequently to the United Arab Emirates where he lived till his arrest. He admitted to fathering a child in 2013. According to a friend, Abbas obtained his secondary school education in Government College, Ikorodu, Lagos State.[11] Many news platforms also reported that Abbas was once a second-hand clothes seller in Lagos.[12] Abbas prided himself on his humble beginnings.

In an exclusive post in which it interviewed old neighbours of Mr Abbas, TheCable.ng reported that Abbas had a reputation as a 'Yahoo boy' a local name for a cyber criminal, was not supported by his mother, had not lifted any of his old friends from poverty and had ignored multiple warnings regarding his lifestyle.[13]

He is known to put inspirational captions on his posts.

He is the subject of a 2017 song 'Telli Person' by Nigerian singer Timaya featuring Olamide and Phyno, with whom he had a long running feud. The song contained lyrics directed towards Abbas indirectly accusing him of being a swindler and lavishing his money on designer clothes instead of investing in profitable ventures and warning him that he would soon be caught by authorities.[14] Many viewed the song as a prophetic warning that was fulfilled with his arrest.[15]

Fraud allegationsEdit

Upon his arrival in the United States on July 3 2020 he was accused of conspiring to launder 'hundreds of millions of dollars'. According to an FBI affidavit,[16] Abbas and others had committed a BEC scheme that defrauded a client of a New York-based law firm out of approximately $922,857 in October 2019. Abbas and co-conspirators allegedly tricked one of the law firm's paralegals into wiring money intended for the client's real estate refinancing to a bank account that was controlled by Abbas and the co-conspirators. Abbas and his co-conspirators had laundered $396,050 while one of them was in Los Angeles, California.

The affidavit also accused Abbas and a co-conspirator of conspiring to launder funds intended to be stolen through fraudulent wire transfers from a 'foreign financial institution' in which fraudulent wire transfers, totalling approximately US$14.7 million, were sent to bank accounts around the world in February 2019.[6] Though the affidavit did not name any bank, according to Forbes the date of the attack and amount mentioned in the affidavit matched that of the attack on Malta's Bank of Valletta in February 2019. In February 2019, $14.7 million was transferred out of the bank through false international transactions to accounts in the United States, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, and Hong Kong.[17] The attack was of such seriousness in Malta that then Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was forced to address parliament. Multiple sources in Malta including Times of Malta and Malta Today also repeated Forbes's claims that Hushpuppi could have been behind the attack.[18][19] According to the affidavit Abbas had provided a co-conspirator with two bank accounts in Europe anticipating the receipt of $5.6 million each of the fraudulently obtained funds.[20] U.S. authorities also accused him of aiding North Korean hackers in money laundering.[21]

According to the affidavit[22] other communications between Abbas and one of his co-conspirators indicated that the two had conspired to "launder tens, and at times hundreds, of millions of dollars that were proceeds of other fraudulent schemes and computer intrusions, including a fraudulent scheme to steal £100 million ($124 million) from an English Premier League football club.

Abbas is also accused of committing fraud in Nigeria. He is wanted by Nigeria's financial crime police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.[23]

A request for his bail and the chance to stay with his girlfriend's uncle in Homewood, Illinois, was denied on the grounds that presented a risk of non-appearance.[24] At Abbas' detention hearing, his lawyer, Pissetzky told the court that his client posed no flight risk because of the damage it would do to his credibility online, adding, "He is loved and respected. He is a celebrity. He would not want to ruin his credibility and status rather than stay here and face these allegations."[3] Prosecutors cited his "significant" financial assets, "deep ties to foreign countries" and a lack of ties to the United States.[3] If convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering, Abbas would face a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison after which he will be deported to his home country Nigeria.

An article in Bloomberg Business week details his actions leading to arrest, incarceration and upcoming trial on July 27, 2021 in Los Angeles. "Authorities say Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, perfected a simple internet scam and laundered millions of dollars. His past says a lot about digital swagger, and the kinds of stories that get told online."https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2021-hushpuppi-gucci-influencer/

On 28th July, 2021, Hushpuppi pleaded guilty to money laundering[25] and also pointed a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Nigeria, Abba Kyari, as an accomplice in his $1.1 million scam deal.[26] The following day, a US Court granted FBI warrant to arrest Abba Kyari. [27] The Police chief was further implicated after his conversation with Hushpuppi was released.[28]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Why We Arrested Hushpuppi —Dubai Police". Sahara Reporters. 2020-06-18. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  2. ^ Faith Karimi (12 July 2020). "He flaunted private jets and luxury cars on Instagram. Feds used his posts to link him to alleged cyber crimes". CNN. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  3. ^ a b c Dawkins, David. "Nigerian Influencer Ramon 'Hushpuppi' Abbas, Accused By FBI Of Money Laundering, Is Denied Bail". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  4. ^ Nwoye, Chidinma Irene. "How the FBI used Instagram and Snapchat to track down an alleged conman in Dubai". Quartz Africa. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  5. ^ "Di big numbers behind Hushpuppi arrest and why e shake Nigeria". BBC News Pidgin. Retrieved 2020-09-22.
  6. ^ a b Dawkins, David. "'Billionaire Gucci Master' Detained By FBI Over Alleged $124 Million Premier League Fraud". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  7. ^ "How Hushpuppi, others were arrested". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 2020-06-25. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  8. ^ "Instagram influencer 'Hushpuppi' arrested amid claims of £350million global cyberscam". The Independent. 2020-06-29. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  9. ^ a b Nwoye, Chidinma Irene. "How the FBI used Instagram and Snapchat to track down an alleged conman in Dubai". Quartz Africa. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  10. ^ "Hushpuppi's lawyer says FBI 'kidnapped' Nigerian Instagrammer from Dubai". BBC News. 2020-07-10. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  11. ^ "Mompha And Hushpuppi Who Is The Richest – Their Cars". carmart.ng. 21 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Hushpuppi: Formerly A Second-hand Clothes Seller In Lagos, Now A Billionaire Fraudster". Lagos News. 2020-07-03. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  13. ^ "INSIDE STORY: The Lagos slum where Hushpuppi bought food on credit and washed cars to survive". TheCable. 2020-07-18. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  14. ^ Young (2017-08-19). "Hushpuppi Blasts Phyno, Olamide & Timaya After Watching "telli Person" Musical Video". Information Nigeria. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  15. ^ "VIDEO: "Hushpuppi Was Warned Before His Arrest" - Fans React To Timaya's Telli Person Video". GhGossip. 2020-06-11. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  16. ^ globalsentinelnews1 (2020-07-03). "Hushpupi Arraigned in US Court for Conspiring to Defraud English Premier League Club $124m (see full charges)". Global Sentinel. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  17. ^ "Update 3 | BOV cyber attack: €13 million transferred out with false transactions". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  18. ^ "Hacker linked to BOV's €13 million cyber heist denied bail". Times of Malta. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  19. ^ "Nigerian scammer arrested by FBI could be behind €13m BOV cyberattack". MaltaToday.com.mt. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  20. ^ "Nigerian National Brought to U.S. to Face Charges of Conspiring to Launder Hundreds of Millions of Dollars from Cybercrime Schemes". www.justice.gov. 2020-07-03. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  21. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-20/nigerian-instagram-star-aided-north-korea-cyber-crime-u-s-says
  22. ^ (PDF) https://media.premiumtimesng.com/wp-content/files/2020/07/usa_v_abbas_complaint_0.pdf. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ Okwumbu, Ruth (2020-06-19). "Hushpuppi connected to several cyber crimes – EFCC". Nairametrics. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  24. ^ "Five reasons Hushpuppi must remain in detention - U.S. Court". 2020-07-24. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  25. ^ "Hushpuppi: Nigerian influencer pleads guilty to money laundering". BBC News. 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  26. ^ "JUST IN: Hushpuppi narrates how he bribed Nigerian top cop Abba Kyari in $1.1 million deal". Peoples Gazette. 2021-07-29. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  27. ^ "Nigeria respond afta US order for arrest of Abba Kyari wey dem indict for Hushpuppi fraud case". BBC News Pidgin. Retrieved 2021-07-30.
  28. ^ "FBI Releases Conversation Between Hushpuppi And Abba Kyari [See Full Text]". talkGlitz.media. 2021-07-30. Retrieved 2021-07-30.