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NDLEA Closes In On Sanwoolu’s Aide, Funke Phillips

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A popular social and political commentator, Ms Olufunke Phillips may be in for troubles in the coming days.

Phillips was the digital manager of Lagos State Governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and she has been alleged to be a fugitive after being charged for cocaine possession.

It will be recalled that Phillips was recently exposed by a Nigerian journalist, Ruona Meyer.

The dirty disclosure was said to have attracted the attention of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who reportedly ordered Sanwoolu to disband his campaign team immediately.

It was gathered that the scandal got to the leaders of the APC as a rude shock and that they have warned the incoming governor that such an element must not be found around him after his swearing in on May 29, 2019.

Ms Phillips (full name: Philip Esther Olufunke) was allegedly charged by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) with illegal possession of 3.14 kilogrammes of cocaine in 2007.

It was alleged that she was arraigned before Justice P.I Ajoku of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court in 2007 but she, alongside 25 others absconded after being granted bail by the judge.

The case seemed to have been forgotten until she publicly fell out with Ms Meyer, who holds a dual Nigerian-German citizenship, brought it back to the fore.

Ms Meyer is accusing Ms Phillips of intellectual property theft.

According to Ms Meyer, the two former associates had teamed up to establish ‘The Beverage Space,’ a website that focuses on alcohol consumption, years ago.

She said she brought Ms. Phillips onboard because she needed a face for the brand since she wasn’t based in Nigeria at the time, adding that she solely funded the project.

Ms Meyer, however, said she pulled the plug on the venture after her background checks revealed her partner as a fugitive.

But years later, Ms Phillips began her own website which she renamed ‘The Beverage Room’ based on the same ideas.

The website is currently being run by Ms Phillips and commands a large following on social media. The group currently boasts over 82,000 followers on Facebook alone.

In a Facebook post, Ms Meyer explained that she was making a public disclaimer to fully dissociate herself from any from business dealings she had with Ms Phillips in 2015 and 2016.

“I terminated our business dealings in 2016 after I found out @FunkePhillips is facing cocaine smuggling charges (with a 2009 court case); and on 4 July 2011, @ndlea_nigeria listed her as skipping bail,” Ms Meyer’s Facebook post read.

Ms Meyer, an ex- BBC Pidgin journalist, also challenged her erstwhile business partner to take down the website or face her in court.

To back her claims, Ms Meyer also shared receipts of her payments for logo design, website hosting. She also expressed her disapproval of Ms Phillips’s continued claims to be the owner of the business.

She explained, “I handled the blog, edited written copy, tapped my contacts in Corporate Communications, PR & media in general, to boost our networks. Funke Phillips had no money, so I handled practically all costs…including domain hosting, calls to contacts, sending proposals for sponsored events planning hangouts, generating content ideas and even doing interviews from Germany with my Nigerian contacts.

“Soon, we were about to get into signing partnerships, when my manager in Germany reminded me to do a character check on Funke Phillips. I remembered I’d heard some absurd rumours and went online to check.

Drug traffickers on the run.

“The report stated that the information that Funke and other alleged drug barons were on the loose was corroborated by then @ndlea_nigeria spokesperson Mitchell Ofoyeju (@mitchelljnr) cc @dg_ndlea.”

Ms Meyer also shared Ms Phillip’s case file number and photo on Facebook on Friday.

Ms Meyer reportedly explained the reason why she decided to publicly dissociate herself from her one-time business partner.

“So I am not asking for money, or care what Nigeria does to her or not. After all, she has skipped bail for years and is not exactly hiding.

Drug traffickers on the run.

“I care because I am held to a higher standard, personally, family-wise, and as a citizen of Germany. I would be a pariah, unworthy of any semblance of public life if I were ever associated with a drug-smuggling criminal, who also skipped bail. So I have to disclaim it. Publicly too.”

Ms Phillips, who is also a popular social and political commentator on Facebook, has however kept mum on the issue. Efforts by this newspaper to get her own side of the story have been unsuccessful as phone calls and text messages to her have been unanswered.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 10.41.09

READ THE FULL POST BY MRS MEYER BELOW.

============================

I’m making this PUBLIC disclaimer to FULLY dissociate myself from business dealings I had with Olufunke Phillips in 2015/2016, which I terminated in 2016, after I found out @FunkePhillips is facing COCAINE smuggling charges (with a 2009 court case); and on 4 July 2011, @ndlea_nigeria listed her as skipping bail. Link here, full screenshots in comments.

In 2015, I originated and conceptualised a blog and event portal on the business of drinking, from a female perspective. I needed a face for it, as I was not based in Nigeria. This is where Funke Phillips came in. I later called it The Beverage Space.

I set up all email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook accounts, paid a designer to make a logo (seen here for August 2015 – mail of her choosing logo), everything. All Funke Phillips had to do was go to events/bars, send in little notes, writings.

I handled the blog, edited written copy, tapped my contacts in Corporate Communications, PR & media in general, to boost our networks. Funke Phillips had no money, so I handled practically all costs…including domain hosting, calls to contacts, sending proposals for sponsored events planning hangouts, generating content ideas and even doing interviews from Germany with my Nigerian contacts.

We started to make progress in a very short time; I flew into Nigeria, arranged meetings with my contacts, I will not mention them here, as they are private people and I may need their private testimony for court.

But each time I told them I’d be working underground, as I was based outside, working on my day job anyway, and so Funke Phillips would be TBS’ face. She attended some meetings, and was aware.

Soon, we were about to get into signing partnerships, when my manager in Germany reminded me to do a character check on Funke Phillips. I remembered I’d heard some absurd rumours, and went online to check…

I discovered Funke Phillips was arrested in a Lagos airport with 3.14kgs of cocaine, and skipped bail, prompting then @ndlea_nigeria chairman Ahmadu to list her among wanted “drug barons” in July 2011. Pics attached as comments

The report states that the information that Funke Phillips and other drug barons were on the loose was corroborated by then @ndlea_nigeria spokesperson Mitchell Ofoyeju (@mitchelljnr) cc @dg_ndlea

I next used my contacts in the courts and prisons to legally crosscheck these facts, and presented the situation to @FunkePhillips, asking her to explain. See her case file number photo also in comments.

In private chats I will reserve for the court, Funke Phillips said she “went through a lot to settle the case.” I replied that the only way the case could be settled was if she was ACQUITTED, or SERVED TIME, but not so, according to @ndlea_nigeria

In comments are screenshots that show that weeks after @ndlea_nigeria noted her as a “drug baron” on the lam, Funke Phillips was online, on social media.

I, therefore, asked Funke Phillips for her documents of acquittal. She responded that this was the work of her enemies. With such answers, I told her I could NEVER work with her on any basis; we needed to cut all ties immediately.

Specifically, I told Funke Phillips I would pay off those I had contracted to work for us, handle all the bills, take down everything to do with TBS– I wanted NOTHING more to do with a fugitive…even if Nigeria is mediocre enough to allow people like Funke Phillips with a pending drug case walk the streets freely. This absurdity was not going to be my norm.

I told Funke Phillips that in fact, I did not care what happened in Nigeria. I cared about my career and life in Europe, where even the whiff of an association with criminality is just as bad as criminality.

Therefore, over subsequent communications, particularly through mutual friends, I asked her to make sure she never referred to me as someone she worked with, never referred to or made similarities to TBS…to ensure she never used any similar idea or contacts made, so that people would not subconsciously associate me with her, as we had gone far. Funke Phillips agreed. I added she was a fraud and must do right by the law.

HOWEVER I thereafter had major surgery, job moves, and JUST discovered that in fact, shortly after this, Funke Phillips set up THE BEVERAGE ROOM (TBR), using many ideas, & in some instances, even same contacts.

Worse still, when I raised the issue 72 hours ago, contacts have since come to tell me they thought I was still a silent partner at TBR, and that is why they joined online groups, bought t-shirts, went to and had events, etc.

To be clear: I publicly (via social media) tagged Funke Phillips, asking her to pull down TBR, because it is a rip-off of TBS, and she knows why she has to: Intellectual property theft, and the matter of GROSS criminality.

Rather, Funke Phillips and her “associate” have since said I am doing it because I am “jealous” and I want to pull her down because I heard she is an aide to Lagos state governor-elect Jide Sanwoolu. FOR THE RECORD: I ALSO JUST HEARD ABOUT THIS LESS THAN 72 HOURS AGO.

So, Funke Phillips, to reiterate what I told you 3 years ago: I DO NOT CARE what Nigeria does to you, or whether this country ignores your criminality and rewards you – after all, you will not be the first fugitive to pop up in government circles in Nigeria.

Because unlike you, I operate under a far different code of integrity and ethics – filial-wise, professionally, and by virtue of being a German citizen.

Based on my dealings in Germany, I cannot be seen to have ever had any associations with someone linked to drugs, even more with someone like you, Funke Phillips, cited as skipping bail and being a fugitive.

THIS is the reason for this public disclaimer, Funke Phillips. This is not about money, so, when I head to court to force a pull-down of TBR, I am more concerned about DISSOCIATION and intellectual property theft.

Because Funke Phillips you simply cannot afford what I would term requisite compensation for my intellectual property. Even if you could, I would never prioritise collecting money from a fraudulent character like you.

Simply because again, I operate under a different set of personal and locational principles. On that note, Funke Phillips should you still refuse to do the needful, and pull down TBR, I will see you in court. Please, try to show up this time.

But a short bio on thebeverageroom.co claimed Phillips launched The Beverage Room, which Meyer said was founded based on her original ideas, in 2015 to “chronicle her love for Coffee, Wine and Spirits. She started an Instagram, Facebook page and a blog sharing tips, tricks, findings and other things.”

Olusesan Daini, who headed Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s media team during the campaign said, Phillips was diligent when she worked with him and that he was surprised to hear about Meyer’s allegations.

When asked if he recruited her for the campaign, Daini said she was contracted to consult “for the purpose of election”.

He absolved the campaign team of any blame concerning Phillips. He insisted that the campaign team expected its consultants to hire people with credible backgrounds to work with them.

An anonymous source in All Progressives Congress’s media circle said Meyer’s allegations were meant to paint Phillips black.

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FBI Arrests Scores of Nigerians For Wire Fraud, BEC Scams

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U.S. authorities on Thursday unsealed a 252-count grand jury indictment charging 80 people, most of them Nigerians, in a major conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through fraud schemes and launder the money through a Los Angeles-based network.

“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference.
The conspiracy included frauds involving business email (BEC scams), romance scams and schemes targeting elderly people.
Victims were targeted in the U.S. and around the world, and some lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Fourteen defendants were arrested, mostly in the Los Angeles region. FBI agents could be seen processing suspects in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot.

Six other defendants are believed to be fugitives in the U.S. and the others are abroad, mostly in Nigeria. Authorities said they hope to extradite them.

The investigation began in 2016 with one victim and a single bank account, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.

Among the people arrested are: Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, both Nigerian citizens. Others are: Jerry Ikogho, 50, of Carson (who was taken into custody on Sunday), and Adegoke Moses Ogungbe, 34, of Fontana, who were indicted as illicit money exchangers for the conspiracy.

In addition: Iro, Igbokwe, Ikogho, Ogungbe and three other defendants –Izuchukwu Kingsley Umejesi, 30, of Los Angeles, Tityaye Marina Mansbangura, 33, of Palmdale, and Obi Madekwe, 31, of Nigeria – are charged with operating illegal money transmitting businesses. Ogungbe and Mansbangura were also among those arrested this morning, and Umejesi is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.

According to the FBI statement: Iro, Igbokwe and Chuks Eroha, 39, face additional charges for attempting to destroy their phones when the FBI executed a search warrant in July 2017. Iro also is charged with lying to the FBI in an interview conducted during the search.

The complaint alleges that, when the FBI arrived to conduct the court-authorized search at Iro’s apartment in Carson, Iro broke his phone in half, while Igbokwe and Eroha threw phones from a bedroom window of the apartment.

While Iro claimed he previously had broken the phone during an argument with his wife, the complaint details how the FBI was able to determine that the phone was operational until seconds after the FBI knocked on Iro’s apartment door to execute the search warrant. Eroha is believed to have fled to Nigeria shortly after the FBI executed the warrant.

Early in August, the FBI similarly arrested a Nigerian FORBES celebrated billionaire, who was accused of milking a branch of US owned Caterpillar subsidiary in the UK of $11.5m, among other atrocious frauds committed.

Read the Full Press statement by FBI today:

Massive International Fraud and Money Laundering Conspiracy Detailed in Federal Grand Jury Indictment that Charges 80 Defendants

A 252-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed today charges 80 defendants, most of whom are Nigerian nationals, with participating in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network.

The indictment was unsealed after law enforcement authorities this morning arrested 14 defendants across the United States, with 11 of those arrests taking place in the Los Angeles region. Two defendants were already in federal custody on other charges, and one was arrested earlier this week. The remaining defendants are believed to be abroad, with most them located in Nigeria.

The indictment alleges that the 80 defendants and others used various online fraud schemes – including business email compromise (BEC) frauds, romance scams, and schemes targeting the elderly – to defraud victims out of millions of dollars. According to a criminal complaint also unsealed today, co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries contacted the lead defendants in the indictment – Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, both Nigerian citizens – for bank and money-service accounts that could receive funds fraudulently obtained from victims.

Once members of the conspiracy convinced victims to send money under false pretenses, Iro and Igbokwe coordinated the receipt of funds and oversaw an extensive money-laundering network, according to the 145-page indictment.

The indictment and criminal complaint allege that Iro and Igbokwe, who were among those arrested this morning, were involved in schemes resulting in the fraudulent transfer of at least $6 million in fraudulently-obtained funds – and the overall conspiracy was responsible for the attempted theft of at least an additional $40 million.

The fraudsters targeted victims in the United States and across the globe, including individuals, small and large businesses, and law firms. Some of the victims of the conspiracy lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fraud schemes, and many were elderly.

“This case is part of our ongoing efforts to protect Americans from fraudulent online schemes and to bring to justice those who prey upon American citizens and businesses,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Today, we have taken a major step to disrupt criminal networks that use BEC schemes, romance scams and other frauds to fleece victims.

This indictment sends a message that we will identify perpetrators – no matter where they reside – and we will cut off the flow of ill-gotten gains.”
“Today’s announcement highlights the extensive efforts that organized criminal groups will engage in to perpetrate BEC schemes that target American citizens and their hard-earned assets,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

“Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims. The FBI is committed to working with our partner agencies worldwide to continue to identify these cyber criminals and to dismantle their networks.”

Iro and Igbokwe essentially were brokers of fraudulent bank accounts. According to the indictment, Iro and Igbokwe collected bank accounts, fielded requests for bank account information, provided that information to co-conspirators around the world, and laundered the money obtained from victims – all of this in exchange for a cut of the money stolen from victims of the various fraud schemes.

If a bank account with a specific business name was required to trick a business-victim into making a payment, Iro and Igbokwe often coordinated with “money mules” to open accounts that could receive funds obtained, according to court documents. In addition to making the fake business name mirror the name of a legitimate company, members of the conspiracy routinely filed fictitious business name statements with the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder’s Office that were presented to banks when the fraudulent accounts were opened.

Once a victim deposited funds into a bank account or a money services account, Iro and Igbokwe allegedly coordinated with others to further launder the funds. Members of the conspiracy sometimes wired funds to other bank accounts under their control; in other cases, they simply withdrew funds as cash or negotiable instruments such as cashier’s checks.
When stolen funds were withdrawn as cash, the defendants frequently used illicit money exchangers to move funds overseas, generally avoiding transferring the funds directly through banking institutions, the indictment alleges. To do this, Iro and Igbokwe coordinated the transfer of a victim’s funds from a fraudulent bank account they controlled to U.S. bank accounts belonging to illicit money exchangers.

Those money exchangers, in turn, used a Nigerian banking application to transfer other funds in naira (?), the currency of Nigeria, from Nigerian bank accounts they controlled to the Nigerian bank accounts specified by Iro and Igbokwe. This method was used to transfer millions of dollars to Nigerian co-conspirators without directly transferring funds overseas. The indictment alleges that Jerry Ikogho, 50, of Carson (who was taken into custody on Sunday), and Adegoke Moses Ogungbe, 34, of Fontana, were among those who served as illicit money exchangers for the conspiracy.
Each of the 80 defendants named in the indictment is charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft.

A number of the defendants also face substantive fraud and money laundering charges. Additionally, Iro, Igbokwe, Ikogho, Ogungbe and three other defendants –Izuchukwu Kingsley Umejesi, 30, of Los Angeles, Tityaye Marina Mansbangura, 33, of Palmdale, and Obi Madekwe, 31, of Nigeria – are charged with operating illegal money transmitting businesses. Ogungbe and Mansbangura were also among those arrested this morning, and Umejesi is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.

Iro, Igbokwe and Chuks Eroha, 39, face additional charges for attempting to destroy their phones when the FBI executed a search warrant in July 2017. Iro also is charged with lying to the FBI in an interview conducted during the search. The complaint alleges that, when the FBI arrived to conduct the court-authorized search at Iro’s apartment in Carson, Iro broke his phone in half, while Igbokwe and Eroha threw phones from a bedroom window of the apartment. While Iro claimed he previously had broken the phone during an argument with his wife, the complaint details how the FBI was able to determine that the phone was operational until seconds after the FBI knocked on Iro’s apartment door to execute the search warrant. Eroha is believed to have fled to Nigeria shortly after the FBI executed the warrant.

The charges contained in the criminal complaint and indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
This investigation is being led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the United States Department of State provided substantial assistance during the investigation.

Several agencies provided support during today’s takedown or during the investigation, including the United States Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and the California Franchise Tax Board.

Many of the FBI’s Legal Attachés provided assistance throughout this investigation, as did the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, and foreign authorities around the world. In particular, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office thank the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Osnabrück, Germany for their contributions.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anil J. Antony and Joseph B. Woodring of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.

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‘Sex-Toy’ Senator Thrown Into Homosexual Controversy, Accuser In Court

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Senator Ishaku Abbo facing trial for harassing a lady in an Abuja sex toy shop has again been thrown into the limelight after a political rival was taken to court allegedly for throwing homosexual taunts at the senator.

The rival, Nurudeen Kama, who served as social media aide to former Governor Bindow Jibrila was alleged to have taunted the senator on Facebook alleging him to be bisexual and of infecting innocent girls with HIV.

Senator Abbo apparently reported him and Kama was arrested in Yola last week Friday by men of Department of State Services (DSS) over alleged defamation of character on his Facebook page following a formal complaint lodged against him by the senator was taken to court Monday afternoon by the Adamawa state police command.

In a suit filed at the Magistrate Court 4 in Yola, Nurudeen Kama is being accused of using derogatory words against the lawmaker on his social media handles (facebook), thereby tarnishing his image before members of the public.

Kama had allegedly written,

“Tafawa Balewa was not bisexual. Tafawa Balewa had no record of molesting women.

“Tafawa Balewa had no HIV. Balewa didn’t transmit HIV to any girl deliberately.
“Tafawa Balewa was not a drunk. Tafawa Balewa never took drugs. Tafawa Balewa was not a gay. Tafawa Balewa was not an idiot.

“Therefore, comparing Tafawa Balewa with a sex toy senator is an insult to the late prime minister.”

“For the records, they cloned my WhatsApp to blackmail and put me on the defensive but I’m not moved even for a minute.

” Cliff and his bisexual friends should work more on redeeming his battered image decently and not by mischievous blackmail for God sake, what parts of Cliff Abbo’s “attention” do I need? To learn how to become a bisexual or how to deliberately transmit HIV to any girl that shows a sign of resistance to my other demands?

” If joining black magic for fame is what it means to be great, I rather buy an ovaprim and a broodstock from the next available fish farm and breed for a living.

“For those who believed in their lies or blackmail, I will not only excuse them but forgive them because most time we are ignorant of the extent idiots can go in order to blackmail you.”

Ruling on the oral bail application filed by his lawyer who is also the state APC legal adviser Barr. Shaknah Pwamaddi, the Judge directed the accused to produce two sureties which must include his blood relative and a traditional ruler in his community.

The judge stated that one of the sureties must be resident within the jurisdiction of the court and the defendant must sign an undertaking not to temper with the ongoing investigations of the matter, among other conditions.

Speaking in an interview with journalists, Barr. Pwamaddi expressed satisfaction with the ruling stressing that they are battle-ready to defend their client and prove his innocence.

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Kogi Speaker Congratulates Minister of State FCT, Dr Ramatu Tijani on her appointment

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Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Prince Matthew Kolawole has congratulated the newly inaugurated Honourable Minister of State Federal Capital Territory, Dr Ramatu Tijjani for her nomination and successful inauguration ceremony today in Abuja.

He described Dr (Mrs) Ramatu Tijjani as a versatile personality that possess the cognate experience with enormous capacity that will assist our great party, APC and President Muhammadu Buhari to actualise the next level agenda through her ministry to Nigerians.

He said her nomination, successful screening, retreat and Oath taking as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has further shown that the APC led administration is gender sensitive.

He said Mrs Ramatu Tijjani has contributed her quota to the overall development of the country while serving as the All Progressive Congress National Women Leader, stressing that she really distinguished herself as a dedicated and hardworking party leader.

He noted with excitement her wonderful and outstanding performance on the floor of the senate during the screening exercise.

He said he has no doubt that she will distinguish herself in the ministry she is assigned as a professional urban and regional planner, astute politician and administrator per excellence.

The Speaker said that the entire members of 7th assembly, management and staff of the Kogi State House of Assembly are proud to associate themselves with her great successes.

He urged her to put in her best in contributing to the development of Nigeria.

Signed:
Femi Olugbemi,
Chief Press Secretary to the Honourable Speaker, Kogi State House of Assembly.

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