The name Emmanuel Nwude is synonymous with fraud in Nigeria. Though he is now a titled chief and a very influential person in his community, he made his name by setting a record as the mastermind of one of the biggest bank swindles in the world to date.
People like Emmanuel Nwude had for a long time given Nigeria a bad name abroad. Their world is the world of 419, the term popularly used to describe fraudsters who collect money for fictitious deals.
In the 419 world of Nwude’s era, names like Ade Bendel, Fred Ajudua, and Maurice Ibekwue were legendary.
At a time, Ibekwue even tried to launder his image by buying his way to the Federal House of Representatives. He became a legitimate lawmaker.
But all the 419 kingpins put together never came close to the scale of Nwude’s scam. By the time Emmanuel Nwude and his accomplices were done, they had ripped a Brazilian bank of $242 million.
The Bank, Banco Noroeste, was one of the biggest banks in Brazil and South America. But it didn’t survive the loss of that money. It collapsed.
Ironically, Emmanuel Nwude used some of the proceeds of that scam to buy about 40% of Union Bank of Nigeria shares. That made him the single largest shareholder of the bank. This gave him the right to sit on the board of directors of the bank
The man who sold a fictitious airport
In various articles about Emmanuel Nwude, the bold headline is about how he sold a fake airportto a Brazilian. This is in a bid to link the scam to one of the biggest frauds of all time.
In 1925, Victor Lustig, a professional swindler was able to convince two people to pay him $200,000 to buy the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris. He became known as the man who sold the Eiffel Tower.
Emmanuel Nwude, though, never attempted to sell an airport to Nelson Sagakuchi, the director of the Brazilian bank who allowed his greed to get the better of him.
What he was sold was a contract from the Ministry of Aviation to build an Airport.
But Nwude did not act alone. He was just the mastermind of the scam that took place overa period of three years.
Many banks in five continents were involved. The conspirators also included several Indians, Europeans, and Nigerians
How it started
Nelson Sagakuchi, the director of foreign operations of his bank was on a business trip to Nigeria in 1996. His friend, Dr. Hakim Ukeh introduced him to three people who Sagakuchi believed were top Nigerian banking officials.
Top on the list was Emmanuel Nwude who posed as the Governor of the Central Bank, Paul Ugwuma. Ikechukwu Anajemba impersonated the Deputy Governor in charge of Foreign Operations.
Amaka Anajemba, the wife of Ikechukwu, impersonated another high ranking Central Bank official.
All of them played their roles to perfection. At least it was enough to convince Nelson Sagakuchi that he was dealing with real Nigerian bank officials.
Then they pitched to him the idea of a contract to build an airport. He was assured the contract was his.
So he headed back home with the knowledge he had won one of the biggest contracts in Africa’s biggest oil producer.
How the scam unfolded
Back in Brazil, Sagakuchi went to work to fund the fake contract.
According to instructions from Nwude and partners, he transferred money from his bank’s offshore accounts to banks in Switzerland.
It is on record that the sum of $242 million was not paid at once. It was paid in small tranches over a period of three years from 1995 to 1997.
First, Sagakuchi was required to pay money to fund the contract. Which he did. The first installment was $1.2 million paid in August 1995.
To get Sagakuchi to pay more money after the airport had been ‘completed’, the swindlers came up with an elaborate story.
In the plan they sold to him, his bank is entitled to over $180 million. This huge sum was apparently due to the failure of the Nigerian Government to fulfill its own part of the bargain.
According to the message, other contractors would be paid various sums of money too. Sagakuchi believed everything.
But to get that $180 million, he had to pay one or two fees to clear some hurdles. That was how, for about three years, he kept paying small amounts to bribe ‘government officials, clear bureaucratic bottlenecks, and facilitate the processing of the cash.
Emmanuel Nwude and his gang kept coming up with new stories to get Sagakuchi to send more money. At a point, they told him the amount due to him due to delays had ballooned to over $380 million.
Sagakuchi couldn’t help himself. He had invested so much he just had to keep sending money to get that huge pay check.
He discovered too late it was an elaborate scam after he had sent close to $200 million of his bank’s money to the Nigerians and their accomplices around the world
The final payments were wire transfers of $4.75 million and $1.35 million to companies controlled by Nwude and his partners. This was in late October 1997.
Honor among thieves
Some of the payments by Sagakuchi ended up in companies controlled by Anajemba and his wife Amaka. But when it was time to remit part of the loot to Nwude, the wife and husband duo attempted to play a fast one by refusing.
A man-hunt for the Anajembas was initiated. At the end, Ikechukwu was murdered in October 1998 on his way to his village. His wife was able to stay alive by buying protection from the Police. The Police guarded her and her Enugu residence 247.
Emmanuel Nwude is still Unrepentant
The story of how Emmanuel Nwude defrauded a Brazilian bank is still being told and never gets old.
He was arrested, tried and convicted by the Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC during Obasanjo’s presidency. He and his cohorts were made to forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars to the Brazilian bank.
Their properties and assets around the world were seized and liquidated to raise the money to refund the bank.
Emmanuel Nwude is now out of jail. Two years ago, he dragged the EFCC to court to enforce his fundamental human rights.
According to him, he was convicted under a law that did not exist in Nigeria. Therefore, he wants his assets and properties returned. The case is still in court.
Meanwhile, Amaka Anajemba, one of the principal actors in the scam, after serving her jail sentence, has bounced back. She is now the Managing Director/CEO of Enugu State Waste Management Agency (ESWAMA).
This is her reward for using her considerable wealth to support the current Governor during his campaign