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Hushpuppi and Sissoko: $400 million scheme by two West African playboys ; spiritual vs online

As modern technology keeps advancing, individuals and corporations find different ways to defraud others of their resources. It is however very important to note that, not all frauds are related to the vulnerabilities of technology. Perpetrators equally make use of other means such as tax evasion, as in the case of Glencor, a western mining company that made away with billions of dollars in Zambia. Moreover, one major method that is posing a dilemma is spiritual fraud.

The case of Foutanga Babani Sissoko, the Malian playboy who masterminded a $300 million spiritual scam and swiftly eluded the law remains a mystery to everyone till date. Sissoko was a very popular figure in The Gambia back in 1995 partly due to how generous he was towards the poor and needy and also his admirable friendship with then military ruler Captain Yahya Jammeh.

Similar to the case of Nigerian big boy Hushpuppi who was recently arrested in Dubai for a $100 million computer scam, Sissoko was also Dubai based at the time he started one of the biggest bank frauds the country ever witnessed. Although Hushpuppi lived in Dubai while running his international scam operation, the Malian did not have to reside in Dubai. He received money from all over the world with the help of his ‘delusional’ banker friend, Ayoub. 

The playboy who got away with $242m – using 'black magic' - BBC News
Babani Sissoko

In August 1995, Sissoko approached the aforementioned Dubai bank manager, Mr. Mohammed Ayoub for a car loan of which he was granted. It was from this encounter that he built a relationship with the bank manager and invited him over for dinner. As part of their conversation, Sissoko told his new friend of his magical abilities to double any sum of money.

They both scheduled another date for Sissoko to demonstrate this claimed spiritual prowess. The banker went there with a certain amount of money but by the time he arrived in the house, Sissoko got it all planned out and with a fake Djinn(spirit)  playing trick in a supposed magic room, Ayoub’s money was mysteriously doubled. It was at this moment that the bank manager trusted Sissoko’s magic, marking the beginning of the biggest ‘spiritual’ bank heist in modern history.

Similar to Hushpuppi’s extravagant lifestyle, Sissoko was also a very flamboyant man who spent heavily on expensive cars, jewelries and private jets. It was reported that he once spent $500 million dollars in one jewelry store alone. One U.S car dealer stated that Sissoko bought approximately 35 expensive cars from him alone. He never had social media to portray his expensive lifestyle but he was a big celebrity in Miami at that time marrying many wives in the city.

The playboy who got away with $242m – using 'black magic' - BBC News
Sissoko donated a large sum of money to a high school band in Miami (Photo: Miami Herald)

The Malian first arrived in New York as a multi-million investor. He walked into a CitiBank to start a banking relationship with them as usual; this time, he went to the extent of marrying one of the bank’s tellers just to solidify his relationship with the bank. Through his familiarity with CitiBank, Sissoko reportedly wire-transferred more than $150 million into the United States through Citi.

Despite all the lavish spending, Sissoko invested back in Africa and helped many people back in Mali. He rebuilt his village by providing the villagers with modern housing plus other social amenities. He opened an airline company called Air Dabia which was operating in The Gambia at that time. In 1996 Sissoko made an attempt to buy military helicopters but the attempt by his men to bribe their way through customs to speed up documentations resulted in his arrest by Interpol.

Air Dabia - Wikiwand
Air Dabia 747, C5-FBS, at Miami Airport in 1999

Unlike Hushpuppi who faced charges in the US and got jailed, Sissoko was extradited to the US to face charges but he mobilized a strong defense team to help him win his case. Many diplomats gave testimonies in his favor and even a U.S senator joined his defense team. Sissoko was later released on bail for $20million; however, he was later sentenced to 43days in prison after he pleaded guilty but only served half of that. He made an agreement to donate $1million to charity in exchange for a lesser sentence.

He was supposed to complete the sentence in Mali under house arrest but only to be welcomed home as a hero who just conquered the world. The Dubai Bank later discovered the missing money but Sissoko was already gone. A Dubai court sentenced him to 3 years on charges that he used magic to commit fraud but he never served jail term in regard to the bank heist.

He became a politician in Mali representing his people as a member of parliament which gave him immunity and he is currently living in his town as a free man. Many perceive Sissoko as a smart fraud who planned his political ambition as an escape plan from day one, hence taking advantage of the millions he made to build this career back home.

Update: Babani Sissoko died in March 2021 in Mali and Hushpuppi recently pleads guilty to million of dollars fraud in the US. He faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced.

FBI used hushpuppi's Instagram to charge him with money laundering - Insider
A cropped image from hushpuppi’s Instagram feed. hushpuppi/Instagram

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