A Nigerian, convicted in 2019 for money laundering in the United States and jailed for six and a half years, has accused the US authorities of subjecting him to inhuman treatment.
Not minding his conviction, Olufolajimi Abegunde has maintained he was innocent of the allegations preferred against him by the FBI.
In 2022, Abegunde took the media through his unfortunate journey from being a young entrepreneur in the US to ending up in jail, insisting he was a victim of racism and unfair justice system.
In a passionate appeal for a review of his case, Abegunde accused some FBI agents of masterminding his ordeal.
He said: “I came to the United States in 2014. I studied in a top rated university in Texas. I eventually earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration in 2016. I worked with a firm called Cock Automotive in Atlanta, Georgia. I worked there as an interim marketing manager.
“After graduation, I founded an international money remittances, currencies exchange and remittances broking firm called LJ Williams. Our business was registered with the Central Bank of Nigeria, though it was a tedious process. We were also licensed and registered by the Chartered Department of Banking and Finance and also the Central Bank of Canada. Getting these licences also required a rigorous process.
“Fulfilling the requirement was tedious, rigorous and requires FBI background check. I was running this legitimate company until problem started.
“In August 2016, I offered assistance to a longtime friend who was in the US for holidays with his family. My home address and telephone line was used for a bank account they opened with Wells Fargo Bank. Months after they had concluded their bank transaction and returned to Nigeria, the FBI tracked me down and charged me for money laundering. The court relied on fabricated evidence by the FBI to convict me.”
Abegunde is now crying out for urgent help, saying rather than review his case, the US authorities further subjected him to more inhumane treatments in prison. He said since his public outcry the Nigerian authorities had not reached out to him or offered him any assistance with reviewing his case.
He added he was recently moved from a low security prison to a medium security one in California where he shares a cell with a mentally deranged paranoid schizophrenic and kept mostly in solitary confinement, a condition he said had affected his health adversely.
“I am using this medium to appeal especially to the Nigerian Government, President Buhari; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Godfrey Onyeema; the Head of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission; senators and elected members of the Nigerian House of Representatives, to intervene on my behalf regarding the current draconian and ruthlessly inhumane conditions of my incarceration in particular, and my wrongful conviction and unjust incarceration in general.
“My appeal mainly is for the Nigerian Government to use all its resources and capabilities to diplomatically demand answers from the U.S authorities regarding my situation. As we have seen with the case of Brittney Grinner, a U.S WNBA basketball star, who allegedly possessed illegal substances on a trip to Russia, and was arrested by Russian authorities, when U.S. citizens are detained abroad, the U.S Government usually steps in to seek relief for its citizens. As a matter of fact, the U.S. State Department recently declared that Brittney Grinner was wrongfully detained.
“In my case, according to all the existing evidence in the public domain, there is absolutely no doubt that I was wrongfully convicted and subsequently incarcerated. As such, there is no reason why I should have to suffer this draconian treatment. As a matter of fact, no one should have to suffer what I am currently suffering in particular, and what I have suffered since February 7, 2018, the date of my wrongful arrest and detention.
“I am also calling on the good people of Nigeria, Civil Society groups, and the media in Nigeria to put pressure on the Nigerian Government to do something. I also urge you to demand answers from the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria.
“To the Nigerian people, I plead with you to utilise their social media handles to pressure Nigerian elected and non-elected officials, as well as the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria to intervene.“