Newly-appointed Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Festus Keyamo, has been linked with Jerry Elo Ikogho, one of the 77 Nigerians charged for massive fraud, money laundering in the United States of America, Sunday Independent can authoritatively reveal.

Keyamo, who is said to have fraternal relationship with the alleged fraudster, admitted that he handles legal works for Ikogho, who was charged on Thursday with 76 other Nigerian nationals for participating in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money-laundering network.

The relationship between the Minister and Ikogho, was said to have started in the early 70s in Ughelli, where they were born but Jerry’s parents are from Orie-Irri, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State.

They were classmates at Government College Ughelli. Ikogho was born with a silver spoon, being the son of one of the earlier car dealers and millionaires. His father was the Chairman of Ikogho Motors, based in Ughelli.

Keyamo, in an interview with Sunday Independent on Saturday, admitted that he was handling legal works for Jerry Ikogho, but clarified that he never knew the kind of business he was into in America.

“We were born together in the same town at Ughelli in Delta State. His parents and my parents are close friends up till tomorrow. We were both raised in the Jehovah Witness’ sect. It is a whole family union. If he has legal issues, I handled them for him free of charge. I didn’t know him as a client but as a family friend with whom we both grew up together,” Keyamo said.

When asked the type of legal briefs he was handling for Ikogho and if he was aware that he was into a shady business, Keyamo retorted: “How would I know? He has not been proven guilty. Have you concluded that he is into massive fraud and money laundering? That he is a scammer is a slant of the Nigerian press because the allegation is coming from the FBI.

“I know the mindset of an average Nigerian journalist, I know what to expect as your headline tomorrow, because I have been dealing with Nigerian journalists for more than 30 years. Your headline tomorrow could be ‘Keyamo linked with alleged scammer’. If it were to be the EFCC that said it, the press in Nigeria would not publish it this way.”

The fiery lawyer said he would like to hear from Ikogho what transpired in America before he takes a position, adding that, “If his explanations are not satisfactory, I will scold him. I have spoken with the wife since this issue broke out, but I have been unable to get in touch with him. But I need to hear from him.”

Asked if he would be part of the legal team that would defend Ikogho in America, Keyamo said, “My license does not permit me to practice law in the United States of America.”

The Minister, however, described what happened to his friend as “very unfortunate because he is not from that kind of family. He is a homeboy. He grew up and did his youth service in Nigeria. I used to stay with him when I first came to Abuja. He is my brother and friend, though I am just a month older than him. Anybody can be in trouble. I am praying for him. If he has valid explanations I will help him legally. I can’t run away from him,” Keyamo added.

A 252-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Thursday, charged 77 Nigerian nationals with participating in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money-laundering network as uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The indictment was unsealed after law enforcement authorities, led by the FBI, Thursday morning arrested 14 defendants across the United States, with 11 of those arrests taking place in the Los Angeles region.

Two defendants were already in federal custody on other charges, and one was arrested earlier last week. The remaining defendants are believed to be abroad, with most of them located in Nigeria.

The indictment alleged that the defendants and others used various online fraud schemes – including business email compromise (BEC) frauds, romance scams, and schemes targeting the elderly – to defraud victims out of millions of dollars.

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