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Fact-checking claims on “Hushpuppi”

Credit: gidifeed.com 6 mins read

Ramon Abbas, popularly known as Hushpuppi, has been a subject of twitter discussions lately, owing to the news of his arrest by the Dubai authorities for multiple frauds in the Arabian city. Is this real or just supposition?

Full Text

Nigerians on 10th of June gathered on Twitter to discuss Hushpuppi – Nigerian controversial style influencer – who was allegedly arrested in Dubai for fraud. He was reportedly arrested along with friends for diverting US funds meant for Ventilators.

In truth, the Instagram celebrity was arrested in Dubai by the International Police (Interpol) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for alleged fraud. Credible news reports attested to this fact. A June 13th publication by Premium Times acknowledged this but indicated that the EFCC is yet to be involved in the case. However, on the same day, the news platform also reported that “Nigeria and the US launched the battle for the possession of Ramon Abbas.” 

Meanwhile, Mr Abbas, already extradited to the United States, made his first court appearance on Friday, July 10th in Chicago.

CLAIM 1: A Twitter user, in a bid to downplay the attention given to Mr Abbas, claimed it took three years for the authorities to discover Emmanuel Nwude’s scheme to sell a fake airport to an international bank for $242 million.

Available evidence supports the claims that Emmanuel Nwude sold an imaginary bank to an international bank for $242million. The Brazillian bank, Banco Noroeste was based in São Paulo. Also, the fraud took place in 1995 but was discovered in 1998 after the bank was bought by a Spanish Bank.

While many were tweeting and dropping memes about the situation, the Twitter User, @ChristDeKing, drew attention to one Emmanuel Nwude who allegedly sold an imaginary airport to an international bank for $242 million. Another user in his post inferred that Hushpuppi’s skills and crime cannot be matched by those of Nwude.

@ChristDeKing’s post garnered 504 Retweets and 2.9K Likes while stirring mixed reactions from users.

Verification

Dubawa conducted a reverse search on the display picture conveying the claim. Results from the search led us to several publications from different years before now, indicating that the claim is factual.

Further, Emmanuel Nwude’s profile on Wikipedia gave an explicit account of the fraud. The subject was identified as a former director of Union Bank of Nigeria who defrauded his victim, Nelson Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi who was the director of a  Brazilian bank, Banco Noroeste in Sao Paulo, of the sum of $242 million inclusive of cash and outstanding interest. The crime which took place between 1995 and 1998 was rated the third largest in banking history after Nick Leeson’s trading losses at Barings Bank, and the looting of the Iraqi Central Bank by Qusay Hussein.

Nwude reportedly impersonated Paul Ogwuma, then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and successfully convinced Sakaguchi to “invest” in a new airport project in Abuja. However, Nwude and his partners were charged for 86 counts of “fraudulently seeking advance fees” and 15 counts of bribery related to the case. In the end, Nwude was sentenced to 25 years in prison. 

After his release, he filed to recover his seized asset which he claimed was procured before the fraud took place and regained $52million. Subsequently, he was arrested again, but this time, for 27 charges including murder after he was mentioned as a leader in an attack that happened in Anambra state in 2016.

BBC also reported the progress of the case in 2004 and 2005( here and here. )

CLAIM 2: A report by First weekly magazine claimed that Hushpuppi hired Michael Jackson’s Lawyer to defend him.

To say that Mark Geragos was hired by Mr Abass is baseless as the source of this information is not credible and has failed in providing proof for his claims. Also, the lawyer widely acknowledged to be defending Hushpuppi is Gal Pissetzky.

“Hushpuppi Hires Michael Jackson’s Lawyer to Defend Him” was the headline of a July 5th report by an online blog -First Weekly Magazine – amidst public discourse on  Ramon Abass’ case. This news platform, in its report, has identified the source of this information to be Sam Klef, a Nigerian artiste who allegedly published it on his Instagram page. 

Similarly, Tribune also published the same news on July 6th, indicating that Hushpuppi is yet to confirm it. The article referenced Sam Klef as its source. The artist was quoted to have said, “Mark Geragos is Hushpupp lawyer. Former Micheal Jackson lawyer This movie go sweet pass Netflix… he might not even spend all his time. he will work with the government. And regain his freedom. Will be giving u guys update. #samklefblogginaire.”  This platform indicated that Hushpuppi DailyTrust was not left out as it published the report, referencing ‘several media reports’ and also gaving a biography of the criminal lawyer – Mark Geragos.

Verification

To start with, our findings showed that Sam Klef actually made the post on his Instagram. The page contains the words as quoted by Tribune and a picture of Mark Geragos. Subsequent reports attributed the information to the blogger/artiste, who can not be considered as credible and has failed to provide proof for his assertions. 

Besides, the widely acknowledged lawyer defending Hushpuppi was identified as Gal Pissetzky in this BBC publication. This is also supported by a PREMIUM TIMES report which announced that Mr Abbas has hired a Chicago lawyer identified as Gal  Pissetzky, a senior partner at Chicago law firm Pissetzky & Berliner.

Further, research has shown that Mark Geragos was once hired by the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson (MJ) when accused of Molestation. While that has been said, it is important to note that his services were later terminated by MJ who claimed that the lawyer, who was handling another case at the time, wasn’t devoting enough attention to the case. Also, when we asked Google who Michael Jackson’s lawyer was, Thomas Mesereau who was later hired by MJ pops up and not Mark Geragos. Even after Micheal’s death, Mesereau defended him again.

It is also worth noting that Mark Geragos was just a one-time lawyer for Michael Jackson which was later relieved from that role. Therefore, he can’t be outrightly called his lawyer because the late pop star sacked him and hired another lawyer to defend him.

CLAIM 3: A viral image attributed to Punch claimed that Hushpuppi’s Lawyer said he is not guilty of the charges against him.

Gal Pissetzky, Mr Abass’s lawyer, made the comments in a Forbes’ publication as stated in the image.

This viral image circulating WhatsApp on Sunday portrayed Mr PIssetzky, Hushpuppi’s lawyer to have said the Instagram sensation is not guilty of any of the charges against him. The lawyer was quoted thus, “Ramon Abass, aka Hushpuppi, is ábsolutely not guilty of (the) charges they are accusing him of. (Abbas) was running a legitimate Instagram account and did not take part in any scam or fraud. He’s an entrepreneur. He has real estate involvement… (he’s) an Instagram personality. He was promoting brands and that’s how he was very legitimately making his money.” 

Verification

First, to verify the inferences in the image above, we check if it was actually published by Punch. After checking, we found it on the new platform’s Instagram page. The caption showed that the lawyer made the statement during an interview with Forbes. Then, we proceeded to search for the interview on Forbes’ website which we found and has the quoted texts above.

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