One of the friends of the former governor could not just watch Kyari as he sunk into depression. He went straight to the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force and filed a report on behalf of Kyari. Hmmm…N500million naira. Issokay, continue. All I will say on that one is that #TIGO. Anyways, after the report was filed, the Nigerian Police launched a manhunt for Ade Bendel who was later arrested, interrogated and then detained on the Kyari case. But as usual, he was released a few days later. Yes, he was that connected. After his release, he left the country for the Netherlands where he spent a couple of weeks and then returned to Nigeria where he kept a relatively low profile for a while but his business continued.
-But Kyari was not the only one stung by Ade Bendel. There was a man called Sheikh Abdul-Jabar Balogun (if you listen to Lanrewaju Adepoju’s tapes, you will recallAbudujabaru right away). Anyway, Sheikh Abdul-Jabar Balogun was based in Epe, Lagos State and when General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was the military president of this great nation, he patronized a number of spiritualists and marabouts who advised him and said they prayed to keep him in power. The Sheikh made some good money from the services he rendered to Babangida but by the time Ade Bendel finished dealing with the Sheikh, he would be wondering the kind of truck that hit him. He was comprehensively duped, and a man that said he could see the future for Babangida could not even see through Ade Bendel’s trickery. Sheikh Abdul-Jabar Balogun wanted to buy a ship and he consulted with one of his friends, a well-known socialite (later joined politics) and incidentally, was a mutual friend of Ade Bendel. They told the Sheikh that Ade Bendel would facilitate the deal and get the ship purchased.
The Sheikh was sweet-talked into paying N70 million naira. After dropping the money, Abdul-Jabar got a message that the N70 million naira was not enough. But the Sheikh was already down to his last penny. Then Ade Bendel came up with another masterstroke of his cruel ingenuity: he advised Abdul-Jabar to sell some of his exotic cars to quickly make the payment. To worsen the matters and add seasoning to the soup well well, the cleric too was in a hurry to get his ship but there were no available buyers that could purchase quickly. Ade Bendel offered to ‘help’ again and without thinking, Abdul-Jabar Balogun, the alfa from Epe handed over 15 cars to the con men. At the end of the day, after dropping N70 million and 15 cars, Sheikh did not even see the spare part of a canoe, not to talk of a ship. That was the beginning of the end of one of Nigeria’s most prominent clerics and pushed him to the very edge of extinction. Today, few people know him, only those who were very current during Babangida’s era will clearly remember this particular cleric who was cleanly emasculated by Ade Bendel.
-But that was not all o. You know sey dem dey always talk sey Warri no dey carry last? Warri carry last for Ade Bendel hand. In 1998, two rich and influential Warri indigenes were gbaju-ed by Ade Bendel. Warri is a major town in Nigeria’s oil-rich state of Delta (which was later ruled by another major fraudster now in a British jail). One of the two Warri indigenes owned a plastic industry and he was coerced into paying Ade Bendel a sum of N11 million for a sketchy business transaction. He did not see a kobo in return from Ade Bendel. But he was very lucky o, his other Warri kinsman was swindled out of a blinding sum of N250 million. While hitting these big jackpots, Ade was also doing other smaller runs, that fetched him sums in the range of N5-10 million naira. Ade Bendel, as hinted earlier, did not limit his fraudulent activities to Nigeria, he diversified his economy and internationalized his dastardly trade. He would promise unsuspecting but greedy foreigners of incredibly lucrative investment deals in Nigeria. He sent fake letters that proclaimed his ‘high connections’ and abilities to land any deal in oil-rich Nigeria.
THE DAYS OF ENJOYMENT AND PLEASURE
Unlike the other swindlers who prefer to keep everything on a low-key and operate beneath the radar, Ade Bendel was the complete opposite. He operated in the full glare of the public. He loved the paparazzi and was intoxicated with publicity. On the 12th of December, 1999, he threw what is now one of the biggest parties in Nigerian history. The kind of party that will make even the late Ezego of Ihiala go green with envy. The venue was the town of Hiveevie and the event was the burial ceremony of his maternal grandfather, and the moneybag was determined to shake the small town to its very foundation by spending to the very last. As I am writing this, that burial remains one of the most talked-about burials in Edo State.
At that time, he was just aged 35, very youthful, bubbly and energetic. He stormed the town with the swagger of a drug lord, confident in his vaults of endless cash. Because he was based in Lagos State, he hired some of the best musicians from that region, and that included his longtime entertainer, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal (KWAM 1, now referred to as K1 the Ultimate), Daddy Showkey, the galala crooner from Ajegunle, Sir Shina Peters, the Afro Juju exponent and Wale Thompson who was then an upcoming artiste. In short, a total of seven musicians were shipped into the town and a sum of N5 million naira was set aside to pamper them. They were all to set the small town on fire and they sure threw more than ‘bangers’. Many of Ade Bendel’s friends and acolytes, many of whom were Lagos-based, trooped into Edo State with some of the ‘baddest’ automobiles on the ‘sickest’ wheels. Not a few Nigerians were oppressed and mesmerized at the same time. The hamlet had never seen such sudden influx of wealth before in its history. But then, Ade Bendel’s mother had just lost her father and the heavens must know his grandson was a wealthy dude.
To provide the rentals was Laurie B Rentals, also based in Lagos. They were to handle the tents, canopies, tables, chairs and food to be consumed by the high-class guests expected at the event. The hospitality outfit had to roll in a whole freezer truck all the way from Lagos, full of all kinds of drinks, from juices to wines. Ade Bendel shelled out a kingly sum of N60 million for that aspect alone. Laurie B Rentals surely hit the jackpot that day.
In no time, the party started that evening and the musicians were sprayed continuously with wads of currencies. But something interesting happened. Ade Bendel and his friends did not ‘disgrace’ the entertainers with the Nigerian naira. On the dance floor, they brought shame to the British pound sterling and the American dollar as they rained these foreign currencies endlessly.
Ade Bendel could not hide his excitement and he swayed his big frame to the beats of Wasiu Ayinde. He danced his heart out, with a glass of swirling champagne in his hand, rolling and smoking expensive cigars lit by golden lighters as he wished. But as the high-spirited Ade Bendel danced on, others joined in the frenzy but the strange thing was that no one knew or could point to any particular business that had brought the son of the soil so much money. No one cared to know. As for the good people of Hiveevie, all that mattered was that they had a son who was very ‘successful’ in Lagos. And they could only pray to Osanobuwa to keep blessing him.
CLASH WITH THE LAW
-In September 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo would declare a very vicious war on all fraudsters and advance fee fraud scammers. It seemed for a moment like the sun was about to set on Ade Bendel. That month, he was arrested by the International Police (INTERPOL) and slammed behind bars at the Ikoyi Prison, Lagos where he chilled off in Cell 7.751709. Later, he was whisked off to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The precise reason why he was arrested at that time was not known but it was gathered that it was due to the relentless petitions fired to the Presidency by foreigners, particularly American businessmen who got more than a copious dose of Ade Bendel’s bitter pill. As at 2000, Americans had lost about $10 billion to Nigerian con artists like Ade B and the US government was not taking the issue lightly with Aso Rock. The pressure was piled on and a beleaguered Obasanjo presidency had to do something, at least, and an arrest and eventual prosecution of the most well-known fraudster in the land will surely send a strong message to the international community that the new democratic government meant business and was surely going to combat corruption. The two governments agreed to partner and work on advance fee fraud, money laundering and the lingering international drug trade in which Nigeria was used as a transit country. But Ade Bendel is no small boy in the business. Before his arrest, he had just successfully ‘washed and dried’ a retired military officer of a princely sum of N14 million naira. That case hook am for throat like sabalo bone and he was dragged to court which ordered that he be remanded in jail but he agreed to refund the money to the officer.
-After many years of disturbing the peace of the society and escaping numerous times, sending many to early graves with his callous actions and sentencing many more to a life of penury and abject poverty, the not-so-long arm of the Nigerian law caught up with Ade Bendel. In December, 2007, a high court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos sentenced the well-fed dude to six years imprisonment. The judge was Justice Mufutau Olokooba who described Ade Bendel as an ‘embarrassment to the nation’. The judge said:
‘The offence is an international embarrassment to the nation and the courts do not have no mercy for such offence. To serve as deterrent to present generation and upcoming generation. Not giving the accused a full weight of the law is inappropriate, I hereby sentence the accused to six years imprisonment on one charge.’
But why? He had defrauded a retired general in the Egyptian Armed Forces, Abdel Azim Attia, of over $605,000 (about N97 million) in 2003. The poor general said that he met Ade Bendel in Saudi Arabia and he took him as a good Muslim brother that he could do business with. Ade Bendel (who reportedly posed as Dr. Ibrahim Ahmed) sold the idea of a phony agricultural venture to the retired general who was enticed by promises of profits of half a billion dollars, once he invested in the deal. 65-year-old Attia initially paid $300,000 to his ‘business partners’ and he was shocked with the speed with which the money vanished. But not done sucking him yet, they told him that in order for the $500 million to be transferred to his account, he had to pay another $200,000 for the transfer to be facilitated, which he paid. By the time the general would realize the game, Ade Bendel had already duped him of close to N100 million. The Egyptian general could not swallow it anymore and fired a petition which interestingly led to case that eventually had Ade Bendel jailed.
Obviously, cluelessness in the military is not geography-limited if you know what I mean. Anyway, while another Egyptian general is now very well on his way to becoming the president of the largest nation in the Arab world, this particular general was duped because he was greedy enough to believe that after paying over half a million dollars, half a billion dollars would be wired to his account for the supply of agricultural equipment. That reminds me of a quote: the honest ones do not get swindled.
In 2003, not a few Nigerians were tired and frustrated with the activities of these fraudsters. Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka said at that time on the issue: ” I want to call on the Obasanjo government to explore all possible avenues to ensure that activities of advanced fee fraudsters are curtailed. It is embarassing and works against the efforts of genuine Nigerian businessmen and women.”
FINAL ARREST AND INCARCERATION
In May 2003, the arrest of Ade Bendel was quite a dramatic one. The Federal Government had renewed its drive to clamp down on financial crime kingpins and the search was on Ade Bendel. It was on a Friday and the ‘big man’ had not returned to his house, he was busy outside enjoying the evening. By 5.am the next morning, operatives from the Economic and Financial Crimea Commission (EFCC) stealthily surrounded
his residence at the palatial Victoria Garden City in Lagos. They then subdued the security men at the gate and entered the expansive residence. Unfortunately for the EFCC operatives, their intelligence was off course because Ade Bendel was not even at home, only his terrified wife and kids were at home. Before long, they got Ade Bendel the Big Fish on phone but he simply scoffed at the EFCC and he felt that it was business as usual, that after a few calls he would be released. He was so confident of himself that he drove himself right back home where he was arrested without delay. But he was wrong this time, as his calls would not save him from jail.
He was later held at the Milverton, Ikoyi Headquarters of the Special Anti-Fraud Unit before prosecution and eventual incarceration. But because he was in detention since 2003 and the judge handed a six-year sentence in 2007, he had already served out almost all the term. His lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, had defended him court saying he was a first-time offender and that the accused had already made full restitution and paid $200,000 to the complainant via the EFCC and that it was vital that Ade Bendel be given full rehabilitation and that the offence for which he was found guilty has a maximum sentence of seven years. (At another period, Ade Bendel’s counsel was Festus Keyamo, at least as at June 2003).
In June 2003, he was arraigned separately on two-count charges of conspiracy and obtaining money with the intent to defraud Remmy Hendrick Iniqi Cima of Germany of the sum of $1,698,380 under false pretence that the money represented payments that were to be made to government officials for the payment of $18 million for a contract.
He had been arrested in May 2003 and charged alongside one Chief Olafemi Ayeni (aged 43 in October 2003, hails from Ilesha, Osun State) who claimed to own a global company called Worldwide that was in charge of United States currency. It was said that when Ade Bendel and Ayeni got to Attia’s office, they said they would need some money to buy some chemicals to wash the security covers from the notes in the box and Attia parted gave them money to buy the so-called chemicals only for him to realize later that there were no chemicals and he had been cheated. The Egyptian general too was in court and he lavished praises on the EFCC and the court for a job well done. Ade Bendel had pleaded not guilty but later amended the plea and pleaded guilty with an agreement with the EFCC to refund the money.
He was eventually to serve his jail term at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison where he was locked up in a private cell at Block 2. While in prison, Ade Bendel was never far from a copy of the Holy Bible and claimed that he was visited by a spirit from high above and that he was becoming a ‘born-again’ Christian. I just hope the accounts of those defrauded will also resurrect again. He was also reported to have run a small ‘church’ inside the prison where he spread the gospel to other inmates and was even said to have become a sudden philanthropist feeding his other inmates. But it must also be pointed out that in 2002 before he was finally arrested, he was said to have told his friends that he was leaving the business for good since the Holy Spirit has ‘arrested’ him after attending a church service.