Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe, a Nigerian former banker, has gained notoriety for the wrong reasons.
The man, who once served as the director of the Union Bank of Nigeria, entered the record books of fraudsters by pulling off the third largest bank fraud in the entire universe.
Nwude successfully sold a non-existent airport to a bank for a whopping $242 million.
How it happened
Reports state that Nwude impersonated Paul Ogwuma, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the time, in order to deceive his victim and carry out a scheme to defraud a bank with a fake airport project.
Nwude brought in accomplices Emmanuel Ofolue, Nzeribe Okoli, and Obum Osakwe, along with the husband and wife duo Christian Ikechukwu Anajemba and Amaka Anajemba to sail the fraud through.
Later, someone assassinated Christian Ikechukwu.
The Central Bank of Nigeria issued a statement
MMI’s findings found that he successfully convinced Nelson Sakaguchi, who was then the director at Brazil’s Banco Noroeste, to “invest” in a new airport in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in exchange for a $10 million commission.
They negotiated the deal for $242 million. Between 1995 and 1998, the bank paid $191 million in cash and the remaining amount in the form of outstanding interest.
The fraud went unnoticed until August 1997, when Banco Santander, a Spanish bank, attempted to take over Banco Noroeste Brazil.
During a December 1997 joint board meeting, an official from Santander uncovered the fraud when they inquired about the unmonitored large sum of money, which amounted to two-fifths of Noroeste’s total value and half of their capital, sitting in the Cayman Islands.
They launched a criminal investigation to track down those behind the fraud. They detected them in Britain, Nigeria, Brazil, the USA, and Switzerland.
Authorities in New York, USA, arrested Nelson Sakaguchi, director at Brazil’s Banco Noroeste, and subsequently extradited him to Switzerland to stand trial. They did not report what happened to him thereafter.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested the chief architect, Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe, in 2004, along with Amaka Anajemba, Emmanuel Nwude, Emmanuel Ofolue, Nzeribe Okoli, and Obum Osakwe (Christian Anajemba was deceased at this point).
The Abuja High Court charged them with 86 counts of “fraudulently seeking advance fees” and 15 counts of bribery related to the case during a court arraignment.
In July 2004, Presiding Judge Lawal Gumi threw out the case, stating that he had no jurisdiction since the crime did not occur in Abuja. He further declared that the appropriate venue for the case would be the Lagos High Court, where the crime took place.
Emmanuel Nwude Odinigwe became a wanted man for years
After leaving the courtroom, they were once again detained and taken to Lagos at Justice Lawal’s direction.
Nwude allegedly engaged in influence peddling and bribery during a court hearing. The Lagos High Court found them guilty and imposed heavy jail terms.
Amaka Anajemba admitted to the crimes in July 2005 and received a sentence of two and a half years in prison. She was also ordered to repay $25.5 million.
Emmanuel Nwude and Nzeribe Okoli pleaded guilty after Sakaguchi testified, hoping for a more lenient sentence.
They collectively sentenced each of them to 29 years in prison, with Nwude receiving five consecutive sentences of five years, totaling 25, and Okoli receiving four.
The authorities confiscated Nwude’s assets and will return them to the victim. The Nigerian federal government imposed a $10 million fine, which Nwude must pay.
He appealed and was released from prison in 2006.
After his release, Nwude filed a lawsuit to recover his seized assets on the grounds that he had acquired some of them before committing the offence.
MMI has gathered that he has already reclaimed at least $52 Million.
The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal is currently hearing the matter, as of May 8, 2015, according to reports.
However, authorities are currently detaining them for their involvement in a murder case.