Explainer: Why DCP Abba Kyari may be Extradited to the US soon

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On Monday, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said on Channels Television “Politics Today” program that there were “reasonable grounds” to proceed against Abba Kyari, the Deputy Commissioner of Police and erstwhile Head of the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT). In his interview with Seun Okinbaloye of Channels Television, Malami also said that the United States and the Nigerian governments are discussing the possible extradition of Kyari to the US, for his alleged connection with the Internet fraudster, Ramon Abbas, aka, Hushpuppi, and five suspected fraudsters.

Background

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in an operation code-named Fox Hunt 2, upturned the world of Ramon ‘Hushpuppi’ Abbas when the agency arrested him and eleven others in June 2020 in his apartment at the Palazzo Versace in Dubai. The arrest was part of an FBI investigation into his involvement in money laundering, cyber-fraud, and hacking. Following his arrest in Dubai, he was extradited to the US, where most of the victims of his alleged fraudulent activities are based.

Abba Kyari’s link with Hushpuppi

After about a year spent maintaining his innocence, Hushpuppi eventually pleaded guilty to money laundering in July 2021, opening him up to a possible 20-year jail term. And just as the FBI had done to him, Hushpuppi upturned the world of DCP Abba Kyari by suggesting the high-profile police officer was a participant of his cyber-crime syndicate. Hushpuppi alleged that Kyari had assisted him in scamming a Qatari businessman of $1.1 million. A 69-page report published by the FBI in July last year established a link between Hushpuppi and Kyari. The report showed a conversation between Hushpuppi and Kyari, in which the former asked Kyari to detain and torture one Kelly Vincent Chibuzor, who, according to Hushpuppi, had tried to jeopardize the deal by telling the victim of the scam that Hushpuppi was a fraudster. The FBI report showed that the sum of $20,600 (8 million naira) was paid to Abba Kyari to arrest Vincent. The day after Hushpuppi’s allegation was made, a US court granted the FBI a warrant to arrest Kyari.

Kyari’s response

Kyari, using his Facebook and Instagram accounts, denied the allegations, leveled against him. He claimed that he had only put Hushpuppi in touch with a tailor, for which he received the sum of N300,000. Kyari, however, has since deleted the posts.

Abba Kyari’s Suspension and Investigation

The Police Service Commission (PSC) suspended Kyari from his office in July last year. The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba set up a four-man Special Investigation Panel headed by Joseph Egbunike to look into the claims made against Kyari. This panel submitted its report to the Inspector General in August last year. Also, an in-house panel was set up by the PSC last August to investigate the allegations and make recommendations to the commission. In September last year, it was reported that the findings of the panel set up by the IGP had been sent to the Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami, for “legal opinion.”

More woes for Kyari

Abba Kyari’s woes piled on when, on February 14, 2022, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) declared him wanted for being a member of an international drug cartel with links in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Brazil. This warrant for arrest is based, according to the NDLEA, on the “intelligence at [its] disposal.” NDLEA spokesman, Femi Babafemi, pronounced Kyari wanted during a press conference held at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja.

What happens next?

In his Monday interview on Channels Television, Malami did not state explicitly whether the findings of the panel were damning, nor did he say precisely what the likelihood of extradition is. What happens next is a matter of pure speculation. On one hand, it’s an indictment of the Nigerian Police Force that one of its high profile officials can be identified as being affiliated with one of the most high profile fraudsters of recent history. In the context of the calls to address police brutality by disbanding the notorious SARS division, it highlights the extent of the institutional decay and the need for extensive reforms to the Police infrastructure. As election season begins, this could form a potential point on which to judge candidates.

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