Mr Rufai said he would not have been appointed as a senior aide to Mr Abiodun if he was not morally upright.
This claim was contained in his filing at a U.S. court where he is battling to have the suspended bail earlier granted him restored.
The suspect has been in detention since his arrest at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on May 14 for pending $350,000 fraud charges instituted against him.
Although Mr Rufai was granted bail by a magistrate judge of the District Court of Eastern New York on May 21, the release order was stayed by a district judge of the District Court of Western Washington at Tacoma on May 25, following the prosecution’s appeal for a review. A district judge is superior to a magistrate judge under the American court system.
The U.S. authorities asked for a total reversal of the release order in their appeal. They argued he was not deserving of being released on bail.
They argued that Mr Rufai presents an extreme risk of flight and “if he does escape to Nigeria, extradition will be extraordinarily difficult or impossible because of his ties to the Nigerian government.”
“It is well known that extradition from Nigeria to the United States is difficult under the best of circumstances. That will be exacerbated in this case because of the strong political connections that earned Rufai a governmental appointment,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorma had said.
‘Rufai, a man of integrity’
But responding to the government’s appeal on why he should be released on bail, Mr Rufai’s lawyer, Lance Hester, told the court in Tacoma that his client has a good character, which facilitated his appointment as governor’s aide.
The reply was filed on June 1, 2021.
“…Mr Rufai’s status as Nigerian National should not weigh heavily in favour of pretrial detention but rather, militate in favor of pretrial release. As the government concedes, Mr. Rufai holds a distinguished Governmental position in his home.
“It goes without saying that only an individual of high moral character and integrity could achieve such a distinguished governmental appointment,” Mr Hester argued for his client in a court filing obtained by PREMIUM TIMES Thursday.
This newspaper also reported how the lawyer told the court that his client’s case was not one designated for “mandatory detention” as it “is not a crime of violence.”
At the end of a detention hearing held on May 19, 2021, the Magistrate Judge (an assistant of a district judge) of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Ramon Reyes, agreed with the government that Mr Rufai posed “a serious flight risk”, but found that the risk could be addressed by conditions of release, including a $300,000 bond.
The magistrate judge went on to issue an order releasing Mr Rufai based on the bond in which Mr Rufai’s brother, who is licensed as an attorney in New York, was proposed as surety.
His brother refused to be his surety, hence he was remanded pending when he would provide an alternate surety.
On May 21, Mr Rufai presented Nekpen Soyemi, a registered nurse, whose family comes from Nigeria, as surety but she was exposed as a “suspect in an investigation into an email impersonation scheme” and her husband, Idris Soyemi, is also said to have been convicted for wire fraud in 2014.
While Mr Rufai was struggling to produce a surety, the U.S. government on May 24 filed an emergency motion of stay release order before the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma.
On May 25, the district judge, Benjamin Settle, granted the government’s motion to stay order for the release of Mr Rufai, even as the U.S. government uncovered more alleged criminal activities involving the suspect.
A federal grand jury in the U.S., a group of citizens empowered by law to conduct legal proceedings, investigate potential criminal conduct, and determine whether criminal charges should be brought has ratified the charges involving conspiracy, wire fraud and “aggravated identity theft” against Mr Rufai.
He is to be arraigned on fraud charges before a United States Courthouse, in Tacoma, Washington, on June 8, 2021.
Mr Rufai adds to the growing list of Nigerians arrested for cybercrimes abroad. Some of the common allegations many of the Nigerian suspects have been accused of include bank verification number scams, fraudulent emails, hacking, cyber harassment, spamming, ATM spoofing, social media hi-jacking etcetera), and exploit vulnerabilities of both electronic devices and their users.
This act destroys the reputation of a country, making the business environment difficult for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, while discouraging investment in the economy by foreign companies
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