A guy named Emmanuel Nwude committed the largest fraud in Nigeria by selling a non-existent airport for $242 million between 1995 and 1998 to an International Bank.
Specifically, his fraud was the third largest banking scam in the world after the Nick Leeson’s trading losses at Barings Bank, and the looting of the Iraqi Central Bank by Qusay Hussein.
So how was Nwude able to carry out this jaw-dropping scam and convince Nelson Sakaguchi, the Director of the bank at that time, to part with so much money for the purchase of an airport?
First of all, Nwude was a former director of Union Bank of Nigeria and this position made him privy to some links, information and documents that other persons would not be aware of. He impersonated the then governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and connected with Sakaguchi informing him of a mouth-watering deal of Nigeria’s plan to build an airport in Abuja.
He told Sakaguchi that he stood of chance of pocketing $10 million commission when the deal passed through. Sakaguchi paid $191 million in cash and the remainder in the form of outstanding interest. Nwude and his criminal gang were able to convince the director of the Brazilian bank to part with the money.
Later in 2004, Nwude’s fraud case was investigated and all the members of his gang were arraigned before an Abuja High Court on 86 counts of ‘fraudulently seeking advance fees’ and 15 counts of bribery related to the case.
The group pleaded not guilty and were warned not to bribe court officials.
Nwude didn’t listen and attempted to bribe Nuhu Ribadu, the then chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) but he refused and Nwude was charged with attempted bribery as well as attempt to kidnap a prosecuting witness.
Nwude finally pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five concurrent sentences of five years and was also asked to pay a $10 million fine.
So far, he has been able to reclaim $167 million.