On the shallow surface of Instagram, Ramon “Hushpuppi” Abbas was a quintessential influencer. The flamboyant Nigerian portrayed a lavish lifestyle of private jets, luxury cars, and designer clothes. His glamorous adventures had earned him over 2 million followers and millions of dollars. But his posts concealed a darker reality.

The 41-year-old was “one of the most prolific money launderers in the world,” according to the FBI.

By his own admission, Hushpuppi conspired to launder over $300mn in just 18 months. One of his alleged clients was a certain Kim Jong Un — the supreme leader of North Korea.

With his penchants for cybercrime, cryptocurrency, and social media, Hushpuppi embodied a new era for his profession. Tech was transforming money laundering.

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His escapades caught the eye of Geoff White, an investigative journalist based in the UK. White had earned acclaim for The Lazarus Heist, a podcast and book about a cybercrime collective linked to the North Korean state.

In 2019, the group broke into Malta’s Bank of Valletta. 

“At that stage, they’re in the bank’s vaults,” White tells TNW. “They can take the money out, but they need to send it somewhere. They can’t send it to Kim Jong Un’s bank accounts — that would be pretty obvious. So instead, they dial up Hushpuppi.”

Hushpuppi was open for business. The fraudster provided bank accounts to wash the stolen money. Prosecutors said he helped launder around $14.7mn from the raid.