Emmanuel Nwude Used A Fake Airport Plan To Make $242 Million

In the ever-shifting underworld of crime, a Paypers report says it all: "Scammers are winning." These criminals rank in activity second to none. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, billions of dollars are at stake as the number of scams reported to authorities rose unfathomably by 70% between 2020 and 2021, costing approximately $5.8 billion. Among these trends are cybercrime, email phishing, cryptocurrency cons, and investment scams.

According to reports, as governments concoct new ways to capture scammers, these con artists are getting equally creative in their endeavors. From fake COVID-19 charities to phony puppy shops, from emailing to blackmailing, to even academic extortion — a con in which a scammer promises to write your college thesis in exchange for dough but then never sends the document — no stone has been left unturned.

Yet even amid the massive increase in cybercrime and bank fraud, one scammer stands out — or rather flies up — above the others. That scammer is none other than Emmanuel Nwude who managed to con a Brazilian bank out of a whopping $242 million with his crafty plan to construct a fake airport, presumably from thin air (via The Guardian).

Selling an imaginary airport was kind of fly in the beginning

History of Yesterday reports that at the beginning of the fraudulent transaction, scammer Emmanuel Nwude, in cahoots with an elongated list of accomplices, was flying high. He reportedly used his experience as a former bank director to successfully impersonate a man named Paul Agbai Ogwuma, who served as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1993 to 1999 (via The Guardian).

Hiding behind false promises and a fake identity, Nwude unveiled a rather preposterous plan in the form of a multi-million-dollar airport that didn't exist. He then proceeded to lure Nelson Sakaguchi of Banco Noroetse into this elaborate scheme. Sakaguchi fell for the pretense of the imaginary airport, which Nwude claimed would be erected in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, and would garner Sakaguchi a handsome $10 million commission upon completion, at least in theory.

Oddly enough, the scammer and his accomplices almost managed to pull off the hoax, having received a whopping sum of $191 million in cash from Banco Noroetse. Another $51 million was garnered in interest. Then, when Banco Santander got involved in a possible takeover, that interest turned into suspicion. Ultimately, the scam would go down in court and in history.

The third-largest bank con in history came crashing down

When master illusion artist David Copperfield made a full-fledged airport seemingly disappear from sight, the world called it magic (via IMDB). When former bank director Emmanuel Nwude convinced the staff of Banco Noroetse that an imaginary airport existed, they called it fraud, and the scammer was sentenced to 25 years in prison (via The Guardian). While the first six years of the scam appeared to be a smooth flight, how exactly did the scheme eventually come crashing down?

According to History of Yesterday, the only reason the scheme ceased flight for bank executives is because another bank got involved. Enter Banco Santander, the bank that planned to take over Banco Noroetse, and noted a more than $200 million discrepancy in the process. A criminal investigation ensued and Nwude, as well as his accomplices, were uncovered and charged. Like the imaginary airport allegedly being constructed, convicting the scammers would be a process years in the making; one that would require government agencies to do things they had never tried before.

Many questions are still up in the air

The Guardian reports that in 2001, the once-prosperous Banco Noroeste was forced to shut down, never to be seen again. Shortly afterward, in 2005, Nwude was sentenced and convicted of fraud. His colossal con inspired authorities to establish the organization known today as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, often referred to by the acronym EFCC.

Still, even after facing hundreds of charges for alleged criminal activity (via History of Yesterday), Nwude maintains that he is unaware of the source of the funds, and should not be held responsible for repayment. Following the conviction of Emmanuel Nwude and his many accomplices, accusations have continued to fly. According to Page One, the scammer has been implicated in alleged crimes including murder, kidnapping, and bribery, which is not to mention the fact that there was a rather suspicious bomb scare that conveniently took place at the courthouse where Nwude's trial was slated to be held.

How then did a former bank executive convince a huge financial institution to spend hundreds of millions on a non-existent airport without raising any suspicions for years? As the story unfolds, many more questions are up in the air.