Emmanuel Nwude: The scammer who sold a fake airport

Emmanuel Nwude

Emmanuel Nwude is a man whose name has been indelibly stamped in the sands of time. Nwude’s story is laughable and pathetic all together.

If you ask me, I would recommend a biopic for this man. The only man who impersonated the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), sold a fake airport, kidnapped witnesses, arranged a bomb scare in court and also tried to bribe the then Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu.

Well, Emmanuel Nwude is regarded as the biggest scammer in Nigeria after he scammed a bank director, Nelson Sakaguchi of Banco Noroeste based in São Paulo. Nwude successfully convinced the unassuming bank manager that he was selling a yet-to-be-built airport for a price of AU$330 million.

The scam was the third-largest case of banking fraud in the world and it popularised the ‘advanced fee fraud syndrome.’

Nwude was not an ordinary man, he was a man of timber and calibre. The kind of man who was privy to confidential information that was crucial to him pulling off his long con. Using this information and office as the Director of Union Bank, he impersonated the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the time, Paul Ogwuma, and connected with Sakaguchi to inform him of a mouth-watering deal – Nigeria’s plan to build a brand new airport in Abuja.

One would wonder the depth of knowledge that Nwude possessed. No ordinary man would pull off something as big as this between 1995-1998. I mean, he wasn’t meaning to sell a plane, it was a WHOLE airport.

To juice it up a bit for poor Sakaguchi, Nwude promised the head of the Brazilian bank a commission fee to the tune of US$10 million if the deal was approved. To get it over the line, Sakaguchi paid $191 million in cash and the remainder in the form of outstanding interest awaited patiently for the construction of said Nigerian fake airport.

However, technology finally caught up with Nwude and his impressive scam, ratting out him and his posse of likeminded con men. Despite the lack of a physical airport, which was promised would take several years to approve before construction, in 1997 the money trail started to chirp up.

As gathered by SPY NIGERIA, that year, Spanish bank Santander just happened to make a move to acquire Banco Noroeste, but during a deep dive in their books, it found that two-fifths of the bank’s capital was registered to undisclosed accounts in the Cayman Islands (this, of course, was Nwude’s colossal takings of $330 million).

An investigation ensued as to who owned this suspicious money yet it wasn’t until 2004 that Nwude and his gang were brought to trial before Abuja High Court on 86 counts of “fraudulently seeking advance fees” and 15 counts of bribery related to the case.

Nwude only spent a few years in jail for the fraud, but a decade later found himself back inside on charges of murder and terrorism.

Reports say that Emmanuel Nwude is still in prison. We hope that his story serves as a deterrent and a shiny example to aspiring scammers.

You know how they say it in Nigerian Pidgin, “One day bush meat go catch the hunter”.