…Seeks FG, NGOs assistance to review the conviction
By Abdulmumin Murtala
In 2019, a young enterprising Nigerian, Olufolajimi Abegunde was convicted in the United States of America and sentenced to 78 months imprisonment for money laundering.
Despite his conviction by the US court, Abegunde maintained that he was innocent of the allegations brought against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI.
On March 4, 2022, Abegunde narrated to Encounter, his unfortunate journey from being a young businessman in the US to ending up in jail and insisted that 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.
How it started
Speaking, Abegunde 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.”
Ordeal in Prison
Five months after his ordeal was published by Encounter, Abegunde is now crying out for urgent help saying that rather than review his case, the US Government has further subjected him to more inhumane treatment in prison. Abegunde told Encounter that since his public outcry, the Nigerian Government has not reached out to him or offered him any assistance for review of his case.
Lamenting his deteriorating health condition, Abegunde said that he was recently moved from a Low Security Prison to Medium Security Prison in California where he shares a cell with an alleged mentally deranged paranoid schizophrenic and kept mostly in solitary confinement. He claimed that the terrible condition in the Medium Security Prison has adversely affected his health and mental state and pleaded for immediate intervention by the Nigerian Government.
Abegunde further claimed that his movement to the Medium Security facility in Mendota, California is against the US Federal Bureau of Prisons, BOP, rules for foreign nationals and all his efforts to seek explanation for his prison transfer has not yielded any result.
“While I had grievances at my prior places of incarceration, all low security facilities, these locations are paradise compared to the hell-like conditions of FCI Mendota. I cannot rule out the possibility that my transfer to a medium security facility is related to my speaking out against the injustices meted to me by the US Criminal Justice System.
“The draconian measures that have been meted on me since my unexplained transfer to FCI Mendota include, but not limited to; deprivation from access to prescribed medication and unavailable medical care, arbitrary 25-Day lockdown where I suffered draconian, and highly unusual treatment without committing any offence, poor quality and substantially insufficient food, no provision of inmate hygiene supplies upon arriving at FCI Mendota and there is unprofessional, contemptuous, condescending, and general indifference to inmates by FCI Mendota personnel.”
He also stated in a message he sent to Encounter through his contact in the US that he is placed in the cell with a mentally deranged paranoid schizophrenic and arbitrarily placing him in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) under solitary confinement for no justifiable reason, all because he spoke out and raised his voice for being unjustly imprisoned and psychologically tortured.
“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.“