Monday, February 6, 2023

Chimaroke Nnamani stole $41.8 million from Enugu, paid millions of dollars in cash for Florida properties: FBI

Previously unreported U.S. court filings said the Nigerian senator forfeited assets in one of several illicit schemes he pulled as Enugu governor from 1999-2007.

• October 4, 2022
Chimaroke
Chimaroke Nnamani

Nigerian Senator Chimaroke Nnamani looted and laundered $41.8 million during his days as Enugu governor and used the ill-gotten riches to acquire luxury assets in Florida, according to a statement submitted by the FBI in a forfeiture proceeding that was recently obtained by Peoples Gazette.

The 2009 complaint seen by The Gazette said Mr Nnamani, whom the FBI described as an American citizen, connived with his sister Chinero Nwigwe to steal public funds when he led Enugu between May 1999 and May 2007. Peter Mbah, 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 William 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.

Mr Nnamani, who has recently cut himself as a moral, prudent leader devoid of corrupt practices long typical of a Nigerian politician, did not return The Gazette’s request seeking comments about his U.S. corruption case, which has gone unreported until now and comes days after he was nominated as a senior member of the presidential campaign council of Bola Tinubu.

Although it was unclear whether or not Mr Nnamani has accepted Mr Tinubu’s job offer to serve in the All Progressives Congress’ presidential campaign despite being a senator and member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, his failure to publicly comment on the development more than a week after it was announced has left even his staunch allies confused as to where he stands in Nigeria’s general elections coming up in February 2023.

American authorities further stated that Mr Nnamani was “involved in a scheme to defraud the State of Enugu, Federal Republic of Nigeria, in violation of Nigerian law since at least 2003 and continuing until at least 2005.”

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.

It was not immediately clear whether or not Mr Nnamani’s successors tried to pursue repatriation of his loot to the state, which has less than N150 billion in an annual budget that is largely unfunded. A spokesman for the state’s current administration did not return a request seeking comments.

It was also unclear whether or not the FBI filed separate criminal charges against Mr Nnamani, but the Nigerian politician had faced separate forfeiture proceedings in Nigeria and lost, especially in 2015 when a federal judge ordered forfeiture of some multibillion-naira assets linked to him in Nigeria.

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