How Emmanuel Nwude sold an imaginary airport for $242 million
From 1995 to 1998, Emmanuel Nwude and his accomplices completed the third biggest private scam in documented history.
The only thing standing between your bank account and a zero balance is a hard-working hacker, the right software and a VPN to disguise the location of the numerous young fraudsters who have made cyber-crime into an art and an industry.
As intimidating as it may sound, years before the internet swam its way into Nigeria on the back of telcos, a Nigerian bank official secured a bounty that would inspire the most reserved yahoo boy to shoot a series of music videos.
In a series of events that is credited as the third largest financial crime in world history, Emmanuel Nwude, a director at Union Bank, defrauded Nelson Sakaguchi and the Brazilian bank, Banco Noroeste Brazil of the sum of $242 million with a scheme that, in retrospect, seems like something out of an episode of Impractical Jokers.
According to a Newswatch editorial dated Monday, July 7, 2003, Nwude was, at the time he was caught, one of the wealthiest Igbo businessmen in Nigeria.
Popularly known as the Owelle of Abunuga, Nwude is said to have owned a 10-storey building in the heart of Lagos. In a manner consistent with his wealth and flashy luxury, he lived on the top floor of the building while the bottom floor housed a commercial bank.
Every metre of space in between those two floors was dedicated to his private concern, Euro-Holdings.
Nwude was said to own buildings across Nigeria and cities in the United States. He was also reported to be a major financier of the People’s Democratic Party and as Newswatch reported, a close ally of former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar.
Anyone who wondered about his wealth would have found a simple convincing response. Nwude owned millions of shares as the singular largest equity holder in Union Bank. Until 2001, he was also a member of the board of directors of the bank.