$41.8 million loot: FBI blackmailing me because of my outspokenness – Chimaroke Nnamani

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Nigerian Senator Chimaroke Nnamani says that Federal Bureau of Investigation is blackmailing him over the looting and laundering of $41.8 million during his days as Enugu governor.

The FBI in the report said Nnamani used the ill-gotten riches to acquire luxury assets in Florida.

Peoples Gazette had on Tuesday quoted a 2009 report by the US anti-fraud agency which showed that Nnamani connived with his sister Chinero Nwigwe to steal public funds when he led Enugu between May 1999 and May 2007.

Peter Mbah; the the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, gubernatorial candidate of Enugu State, Sam Ejiofor and Chika Ohaa were also named in the court documents as Mr Nnamani’s co-conspirators.

The FBI said Mr Nnamani, a medical doctor, stole $41.868,877.05 in one of several illicit schemes he pulled as Enugu governor. Authorities said the money was about N5.3 billion at the time, but it’s now worth around N31 billion today.

The FBI had argued that “Chimaroke Nnamani’s official salary as governor is the equivalent of $10,670 per year; thus, it appears unlikely that Nnamani possesses an adequate source of legitimate income to account for the purchase” of the lush real estate he amassed in Florida.

Judge Williams Acker of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama ordered forfeitures of Mr Nnamani’s assets to the U.S. government after finding that the Nigerian politician was not earning enough as governor to justify the millions of dollars in his possession.

According to the FBI, Mr Nnamani opened 20 bank accounts with AmSouth Bank in Orlando, Florida, where he stashed his loot even while serving as governor and was fully aware that it was illegal to maintain bank accounts abroad as an elected public official in Nigeria. Mr Nnamani had set up a firm Rock City Group, LLC, to carry out the fraud, documents said.

Parts of the stolen funds were used to lock down posh assets in Florida, with authorities stating Mr Nnamani paid $1.8 million in cash to buy his Heathrow residence.

“On February 22, 2007, Nnamani paid a total of $1,800,000 in cash” to buy a proper at 1972 Bridgewater Drive, Heathrow, Florida, filings said.

Following a lengthy trial that began in July 2007, Judge Acker granted the FBI’s request to forfeit all properties linked to Mr Nnamani’s fraud to the U.S. government on May 13, 2009.

Reacting on Wednesday, Nnamani, described the report as cheap blackmail and a ruse.

He described the report as a fake report targeted at maligning him because of his alternative views on the recent political development in the country.

Nnamani, in a statement, described the development as a “Campaign of calumny, intimidation, insults and abuse orchestrated to suppress and diminish my voice”.

He said: “My voice will grow louder and more persistent. I know my recent position will attract this attack by those who cannot tolerate alternative views. Democracy allows alternative viewpoints.

“If I cannot express my opinion and take a stand, who will?”

Nnamani said that there was no such judgment anywhere, adding that the author of the fake news is a known blackmailer.

He said that the story of the Air Peace Airline is still fresh in his memories, adding that he was not surprised that the author has offered himself as a willing tool for this hatchet job once again.

“I left Enugu State on a solid foundation 15 years ago. Record of our accomplishment is an open book. No amount of mudslinging can rewrite our history.

“I urge our people and Nigerians alike to ignore the mischievous report sponsored by political foes and professional blackmailers,” he said.