There are strong indications that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, may be plotting to save a former Commander of the Police Intelligence Response Team, Abba Kyari, from facing criminal prosecution for alleged money laundering.
Weeks after directing the police to probe him for allegedly receiving 33 proceeds of crime, stating that a case of money laundering had been established against Kyari, the justice minister in a new legal advice said there was no evidence to show that money was laundered by the senior police officer.
Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, who is wanted in the United States for alleged involvement in a $1.1m scam carried out by a notorious Internet scammer, Ramon Abass, aka Hushpuppi, was suspended by the police last July.
He is also facing eight counts of conspiracy, obstruction and dealing in cocaine, and other related offences at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The other defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/57/2022 are four members of the IRT, Sunday Ubia, Bawa James, Simon Agirigba and John Nuhu.
Two other suspects arrested at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus Ezenwanne, were also listed as defendants.
Sequel to the report of the Special Investigation Panel which probed Kyari’s alleged links to Hushpuppi, the AGF affirmed in January that investigations carried out by the police indicted the former IRT commander for money laundering.
Malami, in a legal advice, therefore, directed the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to carry out further investigations, noting that a prima facie case of money laundering had been established against the DCP.
He also said the force should intensify investigation into 33 crime proceeds received by the ex-IRT commander.
Our correspondent had exclusively reported that police investigations revealed how the international scammers led by Hushpuppi paid N235,120,000 to Kyari’s younger brother.
The police report also said Kyari equally funnelled N44mn into his sibling’s bank account in multiple transactions.
The AGF’s legal advice read in part, “That there exists prima facie case of conspiracy, collaboration, receipt, conversion, transfer and/or retention of proceeds of unlawful activities contrary to the provision of sections 15, 17 & 18 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and Section 17 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, Cap E, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, against DCP Abba Kyari and other suspects in view of the overwhelming evidence showing the nature of his disguised financial transactions and activities with Abbas Hushpuppi, Efe Martins, Usman Ibrahim Waziri, Sikiru Adekoya, Hussaini Ala and Sharon Festus, who are all confirmed members of an international Internet fraud network.
“Although the facts and circumstances of this case as contained in the case file are suggestive to money laundering offences against DCP Abba Kyari and his accomplices namely: Abbas Hushpuppi, Efe Martins, Usman Ibrahim Waziri, Sikiru Adekoya, Hussaini Ala and Sharon Festus; to successfully prosecute them, there is a need for a more thorough dissecting and tracing of the suspected 33 proceeds of crime received by DCP Abba Kyari directly or indirectly through the said accomplices.”
However, Malami, in his latest advice contradicted his January directive that Kyari should be probed for money laundering and for receiving 33 proceeds of crime.
In a letter dated February 4, 2022, with reference number, DPPA/LA/814/21, the AGF sought to exonerate the embattled senior officer, saying there was no link between Kyari and the Hushpuppi gang.
According to the letter written on behalf of the AGF by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Abubakar, the evidence contained in the case diary “was not sufficient to indicate or show that the said monies (N279mn) were laundered directly or indirectly by Kyari to disguise their origin.”
The new position of the attorney-general was contained in a letter titled, ‘Re: Forwarding of the investigation report of the Nigeria Police Force Special Investigation Team and request for legal advice with regards to allegations of criminal conspiracy, aiding and abetting Internet fraud, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering against DCP Abba Kyari’.
The letter addressed to the IG, read in part, “I am directed to inform you that after a careful study of the said response wherein you stated that ‘the monies have been traced to Zenith Bank account no. 2255416115 belonging to Usman Ibrahim Waziri; Guaranty Trust Bank account no. 0130665392 belonging to Adekoya Sikiru; Zenith Bank account no. 2080537566 belonging to Hussein Ala and other funds went to Sharon Festus. The monies were withdrawn and utilised by the aforementioned account holders and the lady.
“It is our view that the above response has not linked the suspect, DCP Abba Kyari, to the offence of money laundering as the evidence contained in the case diary is not sufficient to indicate or show that the said monies were laundered directly or indirectly by Kyari to disguise their origin, more so that the aforementioned recipients or receivers exonerated him in their statements as having nothing to do with the monies.”
The justice minister said the police might wish to explore their internal disciplinary measures against Kyari through the Police Service Commission for breaching the code of conduct for law enforcement officers by hobnobbing with suspected fraudsters and people of questionable means in his capacity as a senior officer and head of the IRT.
Malami also said Kyari could be sanctioned for violating the social media policy of the police by responding to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s indictment on Facebook; breaching the Police Code of Professional Ethics by accepting complaints and acting on such without recourse to established protocol and detaining a suspect, Vincent Chibuzor, for over a month without a valid court order and regards to his fundamental human rights.
DPP blames police for not probing gaps in report
But the DPP said the AGF’s new position was based on the police report, noting that the police failed to probe the gaps identified in their investigation by the ministry.
Abubakar insisted that the ministry did not say there was no evidence of money laundering against Kyari.
The DPP stated, “We said in the absence of the evidence, further investigation is needed and they should go ahead to try him on the administrative offences they have identified. We said they (police) should establish linkages – the money trail.
“Instead of them to go and investigate further the gaps we identified, they didn’t. They just wrote back to say ‘check paragraphs so and so’. We are saying no, those paragraphs did not sufficiently establish the things we say you should establish.”
Meanwhile, the police have yet to submit a fresh report on Kyari as directed by the PSC.
The commission had rejected the police investigation on Kyari carried out by the SIP led by DIG Joseph Egbunike. It ordered a fresh one, which should have been submitted on February 25.
Despite establishing the fact that a total of N279.120mn flowed to the younger Kyari’s bank account at various times from the cyber scam syndicate members, the panel failed to invite or interrogate him.