PROFILE: Obinwanne Okeke, who promised to make teacher-mum proud, awaits sentence for fraud in U.S. today
In a BBC News Africa interview in 2018, Obinwanne Okeke, said his mother’s struggles and his promise to make her proud motivated his exploits in business.
“My mum was a teacher, I could see her daily struggles. I had promised myself to make her proud someday,” he told the interviewer.
In the 43-minutes interview, Mr Okeke described how he started and succeeded in businesses including IT, real estates, oil and gas and renewable energy.
He said he started his first business at 16, a year after he lost his dad, a politician.
“I already had my business at 16 with I.T, creating websites for people. While I was applying for scholarships, I was making money on the other side,” he said.
A year after the interview, Mr Okeke was arrested over allegations of conspiracy with individuals, some of whom remain at large, to defraud American companies and individuals over a period of at least four years.
The 33-year-old, also known as Invictus Obi, is standing trial for wire fraud in a Virginia Court and will be sentenced according to the U.S. guidelines on Tuesday.
Long walk to jail
At the initial stage of his arraignment, Mr Okeke denied involvement in the crime before a U.S. federal judge. But he later pleaded guilty to the allegation of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and last June agreed to cooperate with the American authorities.
The guilty plea helped Mr Okeke, who was initially indicted on two counts of computer and wire fraud, to secure the withdrawal of the second charge that carries a lesser sentence and fines.
As part of his deal with the U.S. government, he would enjoy immunity from prosecution on the same matter in the U.S. Eastern District of Virginia.
The district will also confirm the validity of the plea agreement in case Mr Okeke is charged over the same offence in another jurisdiction.
His sentencing, which was initially scheduled for October 22, 2020, will hold this Tuesday.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier reported how family members, an employee, a pastor, and others related to Mr Okeke have pleaded with the U.S. court for leniency ahead of his sentencing for wire fraud.
However, the prosecution objected to the plea for a lower sentence than the law stipulates, instead, asking the court to impose a sentence that would serve as a deterrent to other criminally inclined persons.
The prosecution is asking for a sentence not lower than 120 months in jail.
Mr Okeke, the youngest of 17 children, was born on November 9, 1987.
His late dad had four wives.
According to court documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, he was raised in Ukpo, a small village in Dunukofia LGA of Anambra State.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that due to his family’s size and the environment in which he was raised, Mr Okeke had only basic necessities as a child.
He once said the death of his father forced him to become independent at an early age.
Despite the challenges, he earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Monash University in South Africa and a master’s degrees in Counter-Terrorism Studies from Monash University in Australia.
He said his passion for International relations was borne out of his love for current affairs and his pursuit in post-graduate was inspired by the Boko-Haram insurgency which began in northeast Nigeria in 2009.
Mr Okeke said he was part of the inaugural students when the course of study was introduced to the Australian university in 2012.
According to court records, Mr Okeke was recognised with the Most Outstanding Student Award in International Studies as an undergraduate student at Monsah University in South Africa.
His attorney, John Iweanoge, said Mr Okeke also served on the university’s student representative council as the Social Events Coordinator as a graduate student at Monash University in Australia.
Although little is known about his marital life, it recently surfaced in court that Mr Okeke has a daughter who is 19 months old and a United States citizen.
Until his arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr Okeke was a global businessman and claimed he had investments in oil and gas, agriculture, private equity, alternative energy, telecom and real estate.
He operated his holdings under the ‘Invictus Group’, which operated in three African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia.
In the BBC interview, he said his mother is a partner in some of his businesses.
While his lawyer argued that he is a first-time offender, the U.S. government insisted that Mr Okeke’s email records showed that he had been into Business Email Compromise and other related fraud since 2008.
Awards and recognition
In June 2016, he was named on Forbes Africa 30 under 30 for 2016 while still 28 years old and residing in South Africa at that time.
In May 2017, The African Brand Congress awarded the Invictus Group of Companies Ltd, Africa’s Most Innovative Investment Company of the Year 2017 Award.
In October 2017, Mr Okeke was nominated for Africa’s most prestigious award for businessmen, the AABLA Awards, in the category of Young African Business Leader (West Africa).
In 2017, he was a featured speaker at the Forbes Under 30 Summit EMEA 2017 in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.