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Why Hushpuppi Should Spend At Least 11 Years In Jail — U.S. Government

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The United States government has urged the District Court in Central California to sentence a Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Ramon Abbas, popularly known as Hushpuppi, to 135 months in jail for fraud.

It gave its reasons for proposing the equivalent of 11 years and three months jail time for Mr. Abbas in its court filings.

Hushpuppi, an international fraudster, was arrested in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in June 2020 over an extensive fraudulent scheme that has robbed victims of their money in the U.S., Qatar, the United Kingdom, and other places.

He was taken to the U.S, where he was charged with fraud and money laundering.

In July 2021, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He admitted to conspiring with multiple persons within and outside the U.S to launder the proceeds of the fraudulent scheme perpetrated against persons and businesses in different countries.

It was earlier reported that the trial judge, Otis Wright, has fixed 7 November as the date to sentence Hushpuppi.

Ahead of the sentencing, a team of U.S. attorneys led by Stephanie Christensen, urged the court to “sentence the defendant (Hushpuppi) to 135 months’ imprisonment.”

In presentencing filings countering Mr. Abbas’ plea for a lighter punishment, the US authorities called for “a three-year term of supervised release and order of restitution of $1,732,841.34, a fine of $500,000, and the mandatory special assessment of $100.”

He will also restitute all stolen funds to the victim, according to the plea agreement signed by the parties.

‘Hushpuppi’s life ambition directed towards crime’
In the U.S. government’s response to Hushpuppi’s requests seeking “departures and variances” from the statutory punishment for his crime, the prosecuting lawyers disagreed with Mr. Abbas’ claims of being a “life-long, hard-working and ambitious individual.”

The lawyers argued that Hushpuppi’s conduct leading to the charges “is… inconsistent with” his “long history as a scammed and money launderer.

“Defendant is, by all accounts, an ambitious individual, but his ambition has long been directed towards crime and its rewards.”

In pleading for leniency, Hushpuppi cited earlier cases of four Nigerians who were convicted of “economic crimes.”

But, the U.S. attorneys contend that none of the cited cases is similar to Mr. Abbas’ charges.

“The sentences in the cited cases are not comparable for the purposes of the court’s disparity analysis.”

“None of these defendants were high volume money launderers who admitted to conspiring to launder tens of millions of dollars,” the government’s counter-argument shows.

Hushpuppi’s argument seeking a departure from the statutory sentencing guideline, due to the disparate treatment of immigrants under the ‘First Step Act,’ was also opposed by the prosecution.

The government lawyers argued that the four defendants’ cases earlier cited by embattled Hushpuppi do not apply as the latter is not an immigrant to the U.S.

The “defendant did not come to the United States of his own volition- he was brought here to face justice in this case,” the authorities said.

Similarly, the prosecuting attorneys urged the court to discountenance Hushpuppi’s argument that he qualifies for a shorter sentence on grounds of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020.

Acknowledging the “profound impact” of the pandemic, the government, however, said Hushpuppi’s “experience is not exceptional as compared to that of many others who were in custody during the pandemic and received no extra credit at sentencing,” copies of court documents show

Background
Mr. Abbas, in July 2021, agreed to plead guilty to the multi-million-dollar fraud charges slammed against him by the American government.

He has been in detention since his arrest in Dubai and repatriation to the U.S. in June 2020.

Hushpuppi who initially maintained his innocence, entered into a plea bargain agreement with the U.S. authorities in July 2021, in the hope of getting a lighter punishment.

He pleaded guilty to Count Two which is “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering,” an offence that attracts maximum imprisonment of 20 years among other punishments including full restitution, his plea agreement with the U.S. government states in part.

This paper reported that despite pleading guilty, Mr. Abbas will not be freed from paying restitution.

“Defendant understands that the defendant will be required to pay full restitution to the victim(s) of the offence to which the defendant is pleading guilty.

“Defendant agrees that, in return for the USAO’s compliance with its obligations under this agreement, the court may order restitution to persons other than the victim(s) of the offenses to which defendant is pleading guilty and in amounts greater than those alleged in the count to which defendant is pleading guilty,” the plea agreement read.

Not being an American citizen, he will be deported after completing his jail term and paying up the amount to be restituted.

The maximum penalty for the offence which Mr. Abbas hopes will be reduced at his sentencing includes: “20 years’ imprisonment; a 3-year period of supervised release; a fine of $500,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest; and a mandatory special assessment of $100.”

In June 2020, the Hushpuppi, who is known for flaunting his ostentatious lifestyle on the Internet, was arrested in Dubai by special agents including Emirati police officers and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operatives.

The FBI stated in an affidavit that its investigations revealed that Mr. Abbas financed this extravagant lifestyle with proceeds of crime.

Credit: Premium Times

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19-Yr-Old Endurance Arrested After Defrauding A British Lady Of £450K And Using The Money To Buy Cars, Gold Chains, Others

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A 19-year-old  man, Iredia Endurance has been arrested by the operatives of Benin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged fraud.

According to a statement released by Wilson Uwujaren, spokesperson of the anti-graft agencym says Endurance was recently arrested by the Commission following a petition by one Chrstine Brown, a British citizen, alleging that the suspect defrauded her of £450,000.00.

“Upon arrest, the suspect confessed he received £250,000.00 from the complainant in Bitcoin, FedEx and gift cards. On what he did with the money, the suspect averred that they were expanded on cars, gold chains, and landed properties, among others.

Some of the items recovered from the suspect include mobile  phones, laptops, sim cards and landed property.” He added that the suspect will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded.

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Customers, PoS Operators, Companies Panic As CBN Slashes Withdrawal Limits

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The Central Bank of Nigeria has imposed fresh cash withdrawal limits on individuals and organisations, which will become effective on January 9, 2023.

According to a memo issued by the CBN to banks on Tuesday, individuals will only be able to withdraw N100,000 per week (from over-the-counter, point-of-sale machines or automated teller machines), while organisations can access N500,000 per week.

The memo signed by the CBN’s Director of Banking Supervision, Haruna Mustafa, directed banks to load only N200 and lower denominations into their ATMs. This means Nigerians will only be able to withdraw N20,000 per day from ATMs when the directive becomes effective.

The memo read, “The maximum cash withdrawal over the counter by individuals and corporate organisations per week shall henceforth be N100,000 and N500,000 respectively. Withdrawals above these limits shall attract processing fees of 5 per and 10 per, respectively.

“Third-party cheques above N50,000 shall not be eligible for payment over the counter, while extant limits of N10,000,000 on clearing cheques still subsist.

“The maximum cash withdrawal per week via Automated Teller Machine shall be N100,000 subject to a maximum of N20,000 cash withdrawal per day. Only denominations of N200 and below shall be loaded into the ATMs. The maximum cash withdrawal via the point of sale terminal shall be N20,000 daily.”

However, there is an exemption that allows up to N5m for individuals and N10m for corporate organisations once a month with certain requirements.

The CBN warned banks that any bank that would aid and abet the circumvention of this policy will attract severe sanctions.

PoS operators kick

Following the new directive, the National President, Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents of Nigeria, Victor Olojo, has said that point-of-sale operators would plan to protest as the policy was targeted at killing their source of livelihood.

Olojo said that the newly announced policy would have a negative impact on their business as it translated to the shutting down of PoS terminals.

He said, “This news is just breaking and a lot of PoS agents are already complaining bitterly. Some are calling for protests as this policy, which limits PoS transactions to N20,000, sends them out of business. Hence they have to return to their villages.”

Speaking on the impact of the new policy on individuals and the economy, the president said it would be really tough as Nigeria was still a cash-dominant society.

He said, “Nigerians should brace up, as this is a challenge that CBN is putting out to Nigerians to embrace technology. However, the difficulty would be felt as we still have a lot of transactions done with cash, especially those that are below the pyramid such as the market women and men who are petty traders, because this in essence means that once a bag of rice or flour is to be bought, which is above N20,000, it has to be via e-banking. Looking at it, how many of these people are technology-savvy?

“The CBN wants to achieve an agenda which is not exactly bad. However, a longer notice should have been given to those at the bottom of the pyramid. I believe that, eventually, the adoption would scale and people would have to get acquainted irrespective of the difficulty, embracing it in the long run.

“However, it is still very difficult because the technological infrastructure is still not there yet, and there are those who have had bad experiences with technology as well. The implication of this policy would slow down a lot and affect a lot of things, particularly those earning more than N20,000 daily.”

Olojo noted that his fears and concerns were that the policy was coming at a harsh period when the Nigerian economy was ill-prepared for it. He added that  there should be an adequate alternative before any process would be scrapped.

Also, a PoS operator, simply identified as Christian Onyema said, “The new CBN policy will affect our business because pegging daily transaction limit to N20,000 is not helpful for us. For instance, a customer who wanted to transact business came to withdraw N500,000 today, I made my gains and he was able to do his own business. This will no longer be possible by January when the policy takes effect. The economy will suffer and insecurity will rise too because some operators will definitely go out of jobs.”

Another operator who gave his name only as ‘Small’ said, “This will really affect PoS business, a situation where customers can’t withdraw more than N20,000 daily means those who withdraw more than that normally will be limited.”

Transporters react

The Deputy Managing Director of ABC Transport, Jude Nneji, however, lauded the project.

He said, “At least, it will limit some of these crimes. If somebody knows he can’t get cash from you, he won’t bother to attack you. If you also consider the cost of printing this money, you’ll want to use electronic means.”

When asked if this would not affect his transport business, he said, “No doubt, it’s going to encourage people to hoard funds but for people like us whose customers pay through electronic means, we don’t have a problem. However, we hope that government has good intentions too.”

The Chief Executive Officer, Rivers Link, Mr Obinna, said, “This will affect our business, some of us are businessmen and there may be things you want to buy that will be more than N20,000, and some of us may prefer cash, so it will surely affect businesses.”

Businesses lament

The Lagos State Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprise, Dr Adebayo Adams, said the policy would hit businesses, especially MSMEs.

“If other channels are well-organised, then it is good. However, every other thing is going to affect us because, as from December 15, 2022, most people will be skeptical about accepting old notes.

“Most people will not like to discard old naira notes with them because there is no point in taking away the one I have to the bank and find out the new naira notes are not yet available.

“How can you say I can’t access more than N100,000 in a week? What do I do with N100,000? So, it is going to have a serious effect on the local market. These people are selling on a daily basis at Ketu , Igboyi, Oyigbo market, most of them do not have PoS or ATM. So, it will affect the speed of transactions and movement of goods.

“Now, it is people with cash that will be able to buy goods. Because if I say I want to transfer and no one is taking the transfer from me, they will tell you they cannot accept that mode of payment because they have no bank account.

“Now, CBN is talking about N100, 000 a week, but how will that work when a bag of rice is N45,000? So, if I buy a bag of rice, won’t I buy something to eat? It is a very bad policy and will affect every small business owner because they won’t have money for transactional purposes.”

Wrong timing

The President of the Bank Customers Association of Nigeria,  Dr Uju Ogunbunka, said that the cashless policy’s intentions were understandable but the execution and timing were not right, stressing that these were areas where severe problems would emerge.

“From the cashless policy point of view, we should appreciate that, as much as possible, the government is trying to limit the use of cash for transactions, more so, now that they are redesigning the currency. And they may not have enough in print, so for it to go around, they have to find a way to limit us from using cash.

“The second thing is that the government wants to drive the use of online banking, which is good for our economy.  Unfortunately, there have been so many complaints about failed transactions.

“At least, to the best of my knowledge, there is hardly any week without complaints in the banking hall. You will see people shouting with regard to transfer failures. Have we put enough structure to take care of some of these things? The answer is, we are yet to, we are making progress, yes, but we should give enough room and time for some of these things to play out rather than short-circuit the system.

“If all of us, including market women and men, have to go online today, can the infrastructure carry all of us through successfully? This question should be able to deal with some of these things.

“Some of us do not need too much cash to operate. For instance, if I go to the bank in a week and withdraw N100,000, what will I be spending that money on? I mean that should be enough to use for one week. If I can do other transactions online, why not? But it is not everybody that can do this, particularly those who are trading. Most of them still depend on people coming with cash and, then, they will carry the cash to the bank to pay in. This means there will still be a need for people to have cash; otherwise, what we are going to tell people is that you have to hold on till you have cash to do your transaction if you cannot do online banking.

“And the aforementioned can stall businesses. For example, the market woman going to buy food stuffs needs physical cash. Where will she  do online banking with that? And can N20,000 today solve that problem for one week for a family? That’s not possible, so there might be a need for a rethink unless you are targeting people in the towns.

“Even in towns, I do not see the effectiveness of this policy let alone in the rural environs. It is a good policy, but we should streamline to see what is possible in the kind of economy we operate, especially with inflation at double- digit. The practical situation on ground does not support this policy.”

Good policy

A former President of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr Sam Nzekwe, said that the CBN, in limiting withdrawals, was trying to reduce cash in circulation and drive financial inclusion, which was not a bad thing to do.

He said, “They are trying to limit cash in circulation so that people will have little cash. I think they are trying to drive financial inclusion with the policy.”

Nzekwe also said that with more money in the banks, the institutions would be able to provide financial interventions to those who needed it to boost the economy.

“With more money in banks, the banks can use the money for their financial intervention role in the economy,” he said,

He, however, urged the banks to ensure that Nigerians could trust their systems enough to keep their money there.

He noted the issue of people losing money in their bank accounts to cyber-attacks and fraudsters could discourage them from keeping money in banks.

Nzekwe urged the banks to address this issue and build more trust with Nigerians to drive financial inclusion and security in the country.

Credit: The Punch

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After Chatham House Outing, Tinubu Meets With UK Minister For Africa [PHOTOS]

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Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), met with Andrew Mitchell, the UK minister for Africa, Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office, on Tuesday.

The private meeting was held a day after the APC standard bearer spoke at the Chatham House in London.

Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna state governor; Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, and Kayode Fayemi, former governor of Ekiti state, were among those present at the meeting.

See the photos below;

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