Nigerian influencer pleads guilty to money laundering faces 20 years in jail

Nigerian influencer Ramon Abbas - also known as Hushpuppi - has pleaded guilty to money laundering in a US court.

Hushpuppi, 37, is known for posting photos of his lavish lifestyle on Instagram, where he has 2.5m followers.

Court documents filed in California said Hushpuppi's crimes cost victims almost $24m (£17m) in total.

In one scheme, Hushpuppi attempted to steal more than $1.1m from someone who wanted to fund a new children's school in Qatar, the documents said.

Court records unsealed this week show he pleaded guilty to this charge on 20 April.

The documents state that between 18 January 2019 and 9 June 2020, Hushpuppi and others targeted multiple victims and laundered the illicit funds in banks all over the world.

They add that he could face up to 20 years in prison, and will need to "pay full restitution to the victim(s)".

Hushpuppi arrested in Dubai, where he lived, in June 2020.

Acting United States Attorney Tracy Wilkinson said Hushpuppi and others faked the financing of the school "by playing the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website".

They also "bribed a foreign official to keep the elaborate pretence going after the victim was tipped off". 

Hushpuppi , who she said "played a significant role" in the scam, "funded his luxurious lifestyle by laundering illicit proceeds generated by con artists".

Kristi Johnson, acting director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, said Hushpuppi was one of the "most high-profile money launderers in the world".

His "celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organisations and led to several spin-off schemes in the US and abroad", she said.

 His guilty plea was "a crucial blow to this international network".

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