Only three of the defendants have asked for trial to commence in May 2022, while Abba Kyari and two other co-defendants “remain at large”.
Trial of three defendants in the Ramon ‘Hushpuppi’ Abass-coordinated $1.1 million fraud case will last for approximately six days, a court document states.
Six persons, including a top officer in the Nigeria police, Abba Kyari, were indicted for various roles in the scheme spearheaded by the former Nigerian Instagram celebrity widely known as Hushpuppi.
Three of the defendants – Rukayat Fashola (aka Morayo), Bolatito Agbabiaka (aka Bolamide), and Yusuf Anifowoshe (aka AJ and Alvin Johnson) – arrested in the United States and subsequently released on bail have asked for their trial to be postponed to May 2022.
But the rest of the defendants believed to be outside the U.S. – Mr Kyari, Abdulrahman Juma, and Kelly Chibuzo Vincent – “remain at large”, prosecutors say.
The prosecutors along with the three available defendants filed an application for the postponement of the trial from October 2021 to 17 May, 2022 on Friday.
The application filed at the U.S. District Court of Central California stated that parties had estimated that six days would be required to conclude the three defendants’ trial.
“The parties estimate that the trial in this matter will last approximately 6 days,” the application said.
Indicating that the trial of the available defendants may be separated from those of Mr Kyari and others still at large, the application states, “all defendants are joined for trial and a severance has not been granted.”
With no objection to the application from any of the parties, the judge, Otis Wright, is expected to grant the request to fix 17 May, 2022 for commencement of trial any time soon.
Hushpuppi and Abba Kyari connections
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in court documents released in July that all six defendants including Mr Kyari were co-conspirators in the $1.1million fraud coordinated by a former Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Abbas Ramon, better known as Hushpuppi.
A Qatari businessperson was the victim of the scheme perpetrated between November 2019 and April 2020, FBI says.
Hushpuppi has pleaded to various fraud cases including the $1.1million scheme in another case before the U.S. district court in Central California. He is now awaiting sentencing.
Mr Kyari, a deputy commissioner of police, allegedly played a role in the scam by helping Hushpuppi to detain a disenchanted co-conspirator who wanted to warn the victim businessperson about the scam.
The former head of Intelligence Response Team of the Nigerian police, with pending U.S. extradition request against him, was suspended in the wake of the revelation of the charges against him and five others.
The report of a probe into the case commissioned by the Inspector-General of Police has been submitted, but its findings and recommendations have yet to be made public officially.
With the delay, speculations are rife that efforts are being made to cover up for Mr Kyari in a bid to avert his extradition to the U.S.