In particular, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS—which Kyari had previously headed for six years in Lagos—was known for a mix of savage brutality and day-to-day corruption.
A Bloomberg Businessweek report has detailed how the “romance” between the serial internet fraudster, Ramon Abass, better known as Hushpuppi, and disgraced Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, led to the sinking of the top police officer’s career.
On December 8, 2019 Ramon Abbas, better known as @hushpuppi, Ray Hushpuppi, or the Billionaire Gucci Master, posted a photo of himself lounging on the hood of his purple Rolls-Royce.
His outfit, designed by the legendary Virgil Abloh, was a sky blue shirt-and-pants set with a white cloud that appeared to float across his forearms and midriff.
He’d parked the Rolls in the driveway of the Palazzo Versace Dubai, a resort-style hotel where he lived in a penthouse apartment. For Abbas, then a 37-year-old influencer who’d gone from a childhood in a poor part of Lagos to an adulthood full of private jets and celebrity friends, this sort of extremely conspicuous consumption was his brand.
“I don’t believe in competition,” read the post’s caption. “You’re not me and THATS IT #LouisVuitton #OffWhite #VirgilAbloh #RollsRoyce.”
That same week, 3,000 miles away, DCP Abba Kyari, also known as @abbakyari75, struck a different pose. Kyari’s style was all business: seated at a desk stacked with files, wearing a blue dashiki and his ever-present AirPods. Flanked by two plainclothes deputies, he looked purposefully into the camera.
His caption was equally dry: “With my Senior Colleagues today.” Lining the walls behind him were shelves laden with dozens of his awards. In a decade-long string of busts, Kyari, then 44, had captured kidnappers, freed schoolchildren, and hunted assassins.
“He was the star,” says Rommy Mom, who sits on Nigeria’s Police Service Commission, an independent body responsible for police oversight. During a yearslong wave of violent crime and terrorism, the Nigerian press had nicknamed Kyari, the chief of the country’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT), the Super Cop.
Kyari’s glowing press ran counter to law enforcement’s checkered reputation in Nigeria.
In particular, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS—which Kyari had previously headed for six years in Lagos—was known for a mix of savage brutality and day-to-day corruption. A year later, in 2020, SARS’s tactics would be the subject of large street protests that culminated in the government agreeing to disband it. Even then, Kyari somehow seemed to float above it all.
The Billionaire Gucci Master and the Super Cop could hardly have seemed more different. Hushpuppi had more than 2 million Instagram followers to Kyari’s 80,000, and he’d have looked about as at home in an office surrounded by paperwork as Super Cop would have on the hood of a purple Rolls. Yet behind each man’s carefully sculpted public image, their fates appear to have been deeply intertwined.
Off camera, Abbas fueled his lifestyle with a different kind of hustle, as an online scammer and money launderer. He was a partner in what are called business email compromise scams, in which hackers penetrate corporate accounts and collect on phony invoices. He moved money for scams that targeted a law firm in New York, a bank in Malta, and a Premier League soccer club.
He teamed up with a loose network of hackers and fraudsters—including, at least once, a state-sponsored group from North Korea—in schemes chasing as much as $100 million. Eventually he landed in the crosshairs of the FBI. In June 2020, local police raided his Dubai penthouse and shipped him to the U.S., where last summer he pleaded guilty to money laundering related to scams that brought in close to $24 million. This July, he’ll face a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.
The announcement of Abbas’s plea contained a more explosive revelation, however. The U.S. government alleged that one of the influencer’s fellow conspirators was a man sworn to uphold the law: Abba Kyari.
Kyari was born in Gombe, a town in northeastern Nigeria. His dad, a teacher, raised 30 children in a polygamous family, and Kyari was the eldest. As a commander, his exploits were legion.
The connection between the influencer and the Super Cop went back to at least when Kyari paid a visit to Dubai for unknown reasons. The origins of their relationship are murky, but according to court documents, Abbas loaned Kyari a car and driver for his stay. A few weeks later, Kyari sent Abbas a slideshow of photos from the trip and an article about his recent arrest of a kidnapper. “Am really happy to be ur boy,” Abbas responded.
“I promise to be a good boy to u sir.” Unusually for the two prolific Instagram users, both fond of being seen with other famous people, neither ever posted about the other. Whatever the nature of their connection, it wasn’t something they wanted to publicise.
Kyari texted a Nigerian bank account number to Abbas. According to prosecutors, this step completed the crime, making Kyari and his team cops for hire, paid to commit a false arrest.
The same day, a photo on Kyari’s Instagram showed him at a press conference, standing by the podium for the announcement of the arrest of 60 kidnappers. “Nigeria Police will Never relent,” the caption read, “in the fight against these deadly Criminals.”
In his own personal image-making, Kyari’s Instagram showed him drifting a bit further toward Hushpuppi’s scene. In October 2020 he was pictured in his office with the Nigerian pop star Davido, once a friend of Hushpuppi.
Then, on July 28, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Abbas had pleaded guilty to money laundering. The same day, the Justice Department revealed that it had indicted Juma, Chibuzo, Kyari, and three U.S.-based defendants on charges of conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering. Juma, Abbas, and Chibuzo were accused of directly fleecing the businessperson, while Nigeria’s Super Cop was alleged to have aided the conspiracy by jailing Chibuzo in exchange for a bribe.
As befits a celebrity cop, Kyari turned first to social media to defend himself. He posted a long Facebook message, since deleted, claiming that he’d only assisted Abbas in investigating threats against his life. The bank account numbers he’d supplied Abbas, he explained, were for payments to a seller of “native clothes and caps.” Kyari had facilitated the transaction, he claimed, after Abbas had admired them on his Instagram page.
The Police Service Commission suspended Kyari from the force, pending an investigation by the inspector general of police. After the commission received an initial investigative report in December, it determined the report had “gaps” and demanded further digging.
Even facing potential disgrace and extradition, Kyari seemed unable to avoid the spotlight. At the end of January he posted photos to Instagram and Facebook from the wedding of the son of the inspector general of police—the person in charge of investigating him. Obi Cubana, the nightclub owner, was there, too. After a media uproar, Kyari deleted the posts.
Then, on Feb. 14, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in Nigeria announced that Kyari was suspected in another major crime. The agency alleged that in late January, while supposedly suspended, Kyari had contacted an NDLEA officer saying he and his IRT team had confiscated a 25-kilogram shipment of cocaine. Over several conversations, Kyari allegedly suggested that they join forces to keep and sell most of the seizure, leave some for the prosecution, and split the proceeds.
"The boys are very, very sharp, they are very loyal,” he allegedly said of his team. “I do take good care of them.”
The NDLEA officer reported the approach and, outfitted with a wire, collected the money from Kyari. When Kyari then failed to show up for questioning, he was declared a wanted man.
“With the intelligence at our disposal,” the NDLEA said in its statement, “the Agency believes strongly that DCP Kyari is a member of a drug cartel that operates the Brazil-Ethiopia-Nigeria illicit drug pipeline.”
Late on Valentine’s Day, the Super Cop was taken into custody.