A highly decorated police officer in Nigeria has been arrested following accusations he belongs to an international drugs cartel, police say.
Abba Kyari, already suspended for allegedly helping self-avowed fraudster Hushpuppi to launder his money in the US, is now accused in a cocaine plot.
Officials say Mr Kyari asked a colleague to help him siphon off part of a cocaine haul. They say he was caught on camera handing over $61,400 (£45,400) in cash.
Mr Kyari’s arrest came hours after Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) declared him a wanted man, accusing him of being “a member of a drug cartel that operates the Brazil-Ethiopia-Nigeria illicit drug pipeline”.
He was arrested on Monday along with four other officers – Sunday Ubuah, Bawa James, Simon Agrigba and John Nuhu – following a “high-level discreet” investigation, a police statement said. It added that one other officer – John Umoru – remained “at large”.
As part of its investigations, Nigerian police also said a number of anti-drugs officers at the international airport of the south-eastern city of Enugu were found to be “on the payroll” of the same cartel Mr Kyari is accused of working for.
Mr Kyari, 46, once had a reputation of being a “super cop” who investigated big criminal cases.
He received a presidential medal of courage from Mr Buhari in 2016 after his team rescued three kidnapped schoolgirls in Lagos.
He was also honoured by the Lagos state government, winning the top award for gallantry three years in a row between 2011 and 2013, and he was known for fraternising with politicians and celebrities.
But he was suspended from the force in August last year after the US instituted indictment proceedings against him, following allegations that he facilitated payments to Nigerian police personnel from Instagram celebrity Hushpuppi – whose real name is Ramon Abbas.
Self-avowed fraudster Hushpuppi, a Nigerian social media influencer, funded his luxurious lifestyle by cybercrime. Hushpuppi, who had 2.4 million followers on Instagram – pleaded guilty to money laundering in the US after being extradited from Dubai last year.
The NDLEA accused Mr Kyari of propositioning the unnamed police officer last month, by allegedly claiming that he and his team had intercepted and arrested traffickers entering Nigeria from Ethiopia with 25kg of cocaine.
The drug enforcement agency said it then gave the “green light” to its officer to play along, and alleged that Mr Kyari plotted to steal 15kg of the cocaine haul located in Enugu and leave behind a “dummy” weighing the same amount.
In the same statement published on Monday, the agency also accused Mr Kyari of having asked the undercover NDLEA officer “to persuade men of the FCT [Federal Capital Territory] Command to play along as well”.
The NDLEA alleges Mr Kyari was subsequently filmed handing over $61,400 – the promised proceeds from the sale of 5kg of cocaine – to the undercover officer whose car had been rigged with video and sound recorders.