Imagine living a life of first class travel where you envelope your body with Hermes and Louis Vuitton blankets, wearing Gucci sweats and limited edition sneakers? And then disembarking in a custom made Italian designer suit, carrying a customised Hermes Birkin bag, a Richard Mille timepiece on your wrist and being whisked away in the latest model Rolls Royce Cullinan, only to return in your luxury Dubai penthouse suite before the rest of the economy class passengers are through immigration?
After taking pictures for the 'Gram - because of course this is content that must be documented on Instagram- you make calls trying to find new leads on your next source of millions. After probably finding a way, you then go to a top restaurant, order the most expensive meal and soon you are back at the airport, jetting off, on a private jet this time, to another destination - probably a Mykonos villa.
Well, that's was Ramon Olorunwa Abbas’ life for for many years, until it all came to crashing last year with the FBI all over his Dubai residence, arresting him and his associates and deporting him to the US. This Abbas is none other than Hushpuppi, the Nigerian luxury influencer whose life everyone hankered after.
Hushpuppi was a beloved figure on social media. Celebrities wanted to be friends with him more than he wanted to be friends with them. He was followed by the continent's top entertainers and partied with them. He has been photographed with Davido, Wizkid, DJ and heiress, Cuppy, and even Nigeria's former deputy president, Atiku Abubakar.
He was famous and drew attention from around the globe. I first came across a post about him in 2019, when a friend tweeted they that had just spotted Hushpuppi in a club in Dubai, and it seemed like he was holding court and everyone wanted to be in his circle.
Naturally, I went to Instagram which told me everything I needed to know: he was a real estate developer and he was clearly successful enough to afford the finest things in life. I wondered what his real source of income was as I scrolled through his Instagram grid. It was like paging through the pages of the Financial Time’s “How To Spend It” magazine, but only gauche, smutty and gaudy.
So when the news of his arrest after the raid in his Dubai apartment broke, my jaw dropped as did of many others’ around the world.
The celebrities quickly wiped clean any trace of the man from their social media accounts. There were those who were suddenly posting, ‘I told you so’ comments on social media, and how they always knew he was some sort of internet scammer, or as they call them in Nigeria, a ‘Yahoo Boy’, which alludes to how scammers love to use the tech company’s email service to hoodwink their victims. Sadly for Hushpuppi, he had gone too far and the jig was up.
It's been quiet on the Hushpuppi front until recently after reports that he had pleaded guilty to an alleged elaborate scheme, to steal more than $1.1 million from a businessperson attempting to finance the construction of a school for children in Qatar.
The US Department of justice released a statement on the unsealing of the grand jury indictment, detailing the extent of the crimes.
The statement states that Hushpuppi and his accomplices, Abdulrahman "Abdul" Imraan Juma “Abdul,” 28, of Kenya, and Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, 40, of Nigeria, conspired to defraud a Qatari businessperson by claiming to be consultants and bankers, who could facilitate a loan to finance the construction of the school.
“The defendants allegedly faked the financing of a Qatari school by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website in a scheme that also bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretence going after the victim was tipped off,” said Acting United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison.
“Mr. Abbas, who played a significant role in the scheme, funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists who use increasingly sophisticated means. In conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we will identify and prosecute perpetrators of business email compromise scams, which is a massive and growing international crime problem,” said Wilkison.
Six people have since been arrested for these crimes, crimes that are so brazen, the numbers are mind boggling. Their crimes include alleged conspiracy to launder money obtained from business email compromise frauds, schemes that defrauded a U.S law firm of about $40m, illegally transferring $14.7m from a foreign financial institution, and targeting to steal $124M from an English football club.
It all sounds like a film plot, right? Well it’s soon going to be one. Nigerian filmmaker Mo Abudu, has announced that she is currently working on a film about the exploits of Hushpuppi, who went from humble beginnings to being a taxi driver in Lagos and ultimately becoming one of the world’s biggest scammers in recent years. The production will be co-produced by Will Packer Productions and will be based on the Bloomberg article- "The fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master".
Describing the film’s plot, Abudu said it will be an action thriller. “The project is said to be a hybrid of Catch me If You Can and Unusual Suspect.”
There were many people involved in the rise and subsequent downfall of Hushpuppi, including government officials from Nigeria, St. Kitts and even North Korea state-backed hackers.
Hushpuppi’s case is once again a reminder that internet security is important. So is not liking the good things in life too much. We all get sucked into the Instagram-life, wanting the latest and flashiest things, and competing with people whose source of wealth is sketchy. It’s a reminder that while all that glitters may be gold, it’s sometimes covered in the tears of people who got hoodwinked. And you really don’t want all that bad luck in your life.
Hushpuppi learnt that the hard way. And now he’s about to spend the next 20 years in prison.