With the buzz and boom of social media in the last decade, the Nigerian Entertainment space has been filled with different raves and different faves; ranging from your traditional actors and actresses to reality tv stars, Instagram comedians, content creators and plain lifestyle influencers. One of the most popular of the latter category is Mr. Ramon Olorunwa Abbas popularly known as Hushpuppi.
Hush, as he is also called, had and still has a global and fervent following of over 2.5 million followers on Instagram where he posted pictures and videos of his lavish spending on exotic cars, watches, designer clothes and of himself boarding helicopters, with various celebrities, footballers and Nigerian politicians.
He claimed to be a real estate developer.
Fast forward to June 2020 when Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai, an operation code named – Fox Hunt 2, as part of FBI’s investigations into cyber fraud, money laundering etc.
It was reported that an excess of $40.9 million cash, 13 expensive cars worth $6.8 million, 21 computer devices, 47 smartphones, 15 memory stick, five hard disk which contained 119,580 fraud files and the address of 1,926,400 victims were recovered during the burst.
He was later extradited from the UAE to the US to face criminal charges.
His arrest and subsequent extradition was greeted with a lot of hope and respite. For many his arrest and trial in the US was a welcomed development because not only was justice going to catch up with him but it was also going to happen speedily unlike the Nigerian Justice System and serve as a deterrent to others like him.
Over a year later, the question is – How much of this is true?
Initially, Hushpuppi had pleaded “Not Guilty” to the charges against him but subsequently he made a “U Turn” and entered into an agreement with the US Government to plead guilty to ‘conspiracy to engage in money laundering’, one of the charges against him.
He signed the document in the presence of Assistant United States Attorney Anil J Antony, and his counsel Louis J Shapiro on April 7, 2021.
With this agreement, Hushpuppi’s, sentence could be reduced.
However, this also comes at a cost; by pleading guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering before the court, Hushpuppi would no longer have the rights to a counsel, or at best, have the court appoint one.
Vital too, is the fact that he would also be required to pay full restitution to the victim(s) of the offence to which he pleaded guilty. The court may also order that restitution be paid to others aside victims of the offences he had pleaded guilty to and in amounts greater than stipulated in his guilty plea.
Hushpuppi also gave up his right for a speedy and public trial by jury and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses presented by the US government against him, along with the right to be presumed innocent or to place the burden of proof on the US government.
He further agreed that all court appearances, including his change of plea bargain and a sentencing bargain, could proceed on Video Teleconference or telephone. A notable part of the terms of his agreement, is Hushpuppi’s concession not to commit crime again – word!
While it is not yet over, especially considering the recent fact that Hush has gone on a “singing and snitching” spree, the question currently is – is this a win?
As far as justice goes, this definitely passes as a win, not just for the system but also for the real victims of these crimes, a reality that is rarely ever the case especially in these parts.
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