The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said Sunday that he has not exonerated Abba Kyari, a suspended deputy commissioner of police, of complicity in the $1.1 million money laundering scheme spearheaded by Ramon Abbas, also known as Hushpuppi.
Mr Malami, who was responding to a Punch Newspaper report that he was plotting to save Mr Kyari, said he had only advised the police to carry out further investigation to link the senior police officer to the crime.
He called the case a work in progress.
Punch reported that Mr Malami had, weeks after asking the police to probe the proceeds of the crime received by Mr Kyari, made a U-turn in second legal advice that there was no evidence against him.
But reacting to the report, Mr Malami’s spokesperson said in the statement, “Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has described as false the media reports that his Office had conclusively exonerated Abba Kyari.”
Mr Gwandu said there “appears to be misunderstanding regarding the issue”, adding, “It was a case of work in progress in respect of which the office of the Attorney General of the federation requested for further probe in relation to some aspects of investigation.”
He added that “It was clear that the conclusion on the alleged contradiction on the issue was a clear case of misconception.
The office of the Attorney -General of the Federation and Minister of Justice’s stance is that no conclusion has been reached in the direction of absence of evidence relating to the first report.
“The issues were raised for further investigation with a view to cover the field in investigation in order to arrive at informed decision.”
Mr Kyari was indicted by the U.S government in July 2021 in a money laundering case involving Ramon Abass, popularly known as Huspuppi, an Instagram celebrity.
While Hushpuppi is awaiting judgement after pleading guilty to the charges in a separate case filed at the Central District Court of Central District of California, Mr Kyari, one of his alleged accomplices, is being held by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for various drugs trafficking offences in Abuja.
Mr Kyari and four of his colleagues are currently standing trial at a federal court in Abuja for allegedly dealing in cocaine.
Punch reported that in a fresh move to let Mr Kyari off the hook, the AGF in his second letter of legal advice informed the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, that there was no evidence linking the former Commander of the IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT) to money laundering offences, the Punch Newspapers reported.
Mr Malami, according to the newspaper, had initially directed the police to further investigate Mr Kyari for allegedly receiving 33 sets of proceeds of crime regarding the case.
The minister was reported to have stated in the initial letter that a case of money laundering had been established against the former IRT commander.
But Punch reported that the AGF, in a new legal advice, said there was no evidence linking Mr Kyari to the alleged money laundering crime.
The newspaper quoted the letter authored on behalf of the AGF by Mohammed Abubakar, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Federal Ministry of Justice.
According to the report, the letter dated February 4, 2022, with reference number, DPPA/LA/814/21, stated that the evidence contained in the case diary “was not sufficient to indicate or show that the said monies (N279mn) were laundered directly or indirectly by Kyari to disguise their origin.”
“I am directed to inform you that after a careful study of the said response wherein you stated that ‘the monies have been traced to Zenith Bank account no. 2255416115 belonging to Usman Ibrahim Waziri; Guaranty Trust Bank account no. 0130665392 belonging to Adekoya Sikiru; Zenith Bank account no. 2080537566 belonging to Hussein Ala and other funds went to Sharon Festus. The monies were withdrawn and utilised by the aforementioned account holders and the lady.
“It is our view that the above response has not linked the suspect, DCP Abba Kyari, to the offence of money laundering as the evidence contained in the case diary is not sufficient to indicate or show that the said monies were laundered directly or indirectly by Kyari to disguise their origin, more so that the aforementioned recipients or receivers exonerated him in their statements as having nothing to do with the monies,” the new letter read.
Mr Malami urged the police authorities to explore their in-house disciplinary measures against Mr Kyari through the Police Service Commission for violating the code of conduct for law enforcement officers in terms of his relationship with Hushpuppi, among other ethical and professional breaches.
Speaking further with Punch, Mr Abubakar blamed the police for their failure in bridging gaps that were noticed in the late DIG Joseph Egbunike-led Special Investigative Panel on Mr Kyari’s alleged criminal links with Hushpuppi.
“We said in the absence of the evidence, further investigation is needed and they should go ahead to try him on the administrative offences they have identified. We said they (police) should establish linkages – the money trail.
“Instead of them to go and investigate further the gaps we identified, they didn’t. They just wrote back to say ‘check paragraphs so and so’. We are saying no, those paragraphs did not sufficiently establish the things we say you should establish.”
The back-and-forth communications between the police and AGF office fuel speculations about move to sweep the case under the carpet.
This is also especially because Mr Malami had said while appearing on Channels Television last month that there were sufficient grounds to proceed against Mr Kyari.
From the date of the letter quoted by Punch, Mr Malami’s television comment on February 7 disclosing that a prima facie case had been established against Mr Kyari, came about three days after his second legal advice asked the police to carry out further investigations.
But Mr Gwandu, AGF’s spokesperson, in an interview with our reporter on Sunday, insisted that Mr Malami was not covering up Mr Kyari. He said Mr Malami’s call for more investigations could not have implied a cover-up.
“The office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice’s stance is that no conclusion has been reached in the direction of absence of evidence relating to the first report,” he said.
However, spokesperson for the Nigerian police force, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the police were not aware of the AGF’s directive on closing gaps in Mr Kyari’s probe.
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, Mr Adejobi said he was going to make further enquiries about Mr Malami’s letter and get back to this reporter.
The force spokesperson had yet to get back as of the time of filing this report.
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