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Man who defrauded bank out of £200 million by telling it he was building an airport

Man who defrauded bank out of £200 million by telling it he was building an airport

He did end up getting arrested for it so don't try this one at home

A man managed to swindle a major bank out of around $240 million (about £200 million) by simply calling them up and telling them he needed the money to build an airport.

Emmanuel Nwude had worked as a director at the Union Bank of Nigeria so he had a pretty good grasp of how the financial sector worked and decided to play it to his advantage.

He made a phone call to Nelson Sakaguchi, a director for the Brazilian bank Banco Noroeste, claiming to be someone else, namely Paul Ogwuma, the then governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

With one call and pretty much no further background checks to do anything but take Emmanuel at his word, the banker bought his story and heard that he needed money for a new airport, but to very definitely never come and have a look at this new airport.

If Sakaguchi approved the deal he'd be getting a nifty $10 million (£8m) commission so the airport that wasn't going to ever be built got the funding Emmanuel was asking for.

Emmanuel Nwude (left) swindled a bank out of £200 million by pretending he was going to build an airport.
Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo

Between 1995 and 1998 the banker paid out a total of $242 million to Emmanuel and his accomplices for this ersatz airport that nobody ever checked actually existed, but every scam has to come to an end.

In 1997 the bank was looking over its finances ahead of being bought by Santander and wondered why about half their money was sitting in the Cayman Islands (why indeed) with nobody keeping an eye on it.

With a big black hole in their finances, no airport built from all of that spending and nobody official having any idea what the hell this was all about the game was pretty much up.

This sparked a bunch of criminal investigations which unravelled how Emmanuel defrauded a bank out of $242 million, with the bank owners eventually paying the costs out of their own pocket so the sale would go through before eventually collapsing anyway in 2001.

If someone's asking you for a fortune to build an airport you'd think someone would occasionally check that there really was an airport.

Emmanuel and his accomplices only ended up in court in 2004, years after they'd pulled the scam, only for the case to be thrown out and for them all to be arrest again as they left so they could face charges in another court.

In the end the criminals pleaded not guilty to over 100 counts of fraud and bribery, with the latter charges coming after Emmanuel tried to pay a $75,000 (£60k) bribe to get out of trouble after one of his accomplices confessed.

However, the bribe was refused and only dug him deeper into trouble, especially as the trial managed to bring Sakaguchi in as a witness at which point Emmanuel pleaded guilty to try and avoid a harsher sentence.

Ultimately he got sentenced to 25 years behind bars for defrauding the bank, but was released from prison in 2006.

It ended up being one of the biggest financial frauds in history and one of the most notorious '419 scams'.

If only they'd thought to check whether there really was an airport.

Featured Image Credit: Stringer/EPA/Shutterstock/Pixabay

Topics: World News, Money, Crime