Former England international, John Fashanu, was arrested by the Police in Nigeria and left in a cell with 200 others after being held over an alleged dodgy land deal, police have revealed.
Nigerian police Deputy Inspector General Hyacinth Dagala confirmed the story by saying: “John Fashanu was arrested on July 17 in connection with an allegation of criminal conspiracy and obtaining the sum of N9,550,000 [Nine Million Naira] under false pretence.
“He was granted administrative bail on July 18 but because of his inability to produce the requisite surety on that day, he remained in detention until July 19 when he was released.”
According to a Mirror report, the former Wimbledon and England star spent two days locked up as officers investigated claims he acted as a fixer in a scam to sell plots that were not for sale.
He was arrested at his home on the Sun City Estate, in the capital Abuja, and taken in on suspicion of “criminal conspiracy”, detectives said.
It is alleged that earlier this year the former footballer acted for a friend looking to buy land.
The pal claims he was told by the 54-year-old Fashanu of two contacts who would help with buying “forgotten lands” – plots owned by chiefs that the state were unaware of.
He was allegedly given £23,000 in cash to fix the deal with his “boys”. But when the new “owner” went to claim his land, it is alleged he found it not for sale and not in the hands of local chiefs.
Fash, who once fronted Nigeria’s version of Deal or No Deal, was taken before a superintendent last week to explain himself before being left in a packed cell, police sources said.
Officers are now looking for the other two men said to be involved. It is believed they are still in Nigeria, where the average yearly wage is £1,600 (660,000 Naira).
Fashanu has agreed to pay the money back, although he denies wrongdoing.
A source close to the former Gladiators presenter said last night: “This is a business deal between friends that has gone south and the police were asked to basically mediate.
“It will all be sorted very quickly. It was just a business deal.”
It is understood Fashanu was released after surrendering his British passport and agreeing to pay back a first instalment of the money.
Sources said he looked to sell some of his cars to raise the cash as he waited for funds from his numerous business interests to clear in his bank account.
The London-born celebrity’s Nigerian barrister Hyp Egbune confirmed he had this week paid a second instalment of the money owed.
He said: “The matter is being resolved. He won’t be charged to court is my understanding.
“We are repaying the money and that should settle this matter.
“The person who made the complaint has been a mutual friend for quite a number of years and we are more interested in keeping that relationship so we are making amends. We hope to do that as soon as we can. It is quite a lot of money so we hope to do it as soon as we can. We want to have this resolved.”
This is not the first time Fashanu has had a brush with the Law. During his playing days, in 1997, he was acquitted in a high-profile match-fixing trial along with goalkeepers Bruce Grobbelaar and Hans Segers. Also In 2015 he was arrested over an unlicensed gun found in his Nigerian house during a police raid. He ended up paying a fine.
Born to a Guyanese mother and Nigerian father, Fashanu became a Barnado’s boy when they split. He was then fostered in Norfolk.
His first marriage, to model Melissa Kassa-Mapsi, ended in divorce in 2004 after nine years. They had two children. In 2015 he went through a messy split in Nigeria, claiming wife Abigail Onyekwelu tried to knife him.
Fash had already suffered heartbreak when his brother Justin, Britain’s first openly gay professional footballer, hanged himself in 1998.
He later told of his remorse for disowning him because of his homosexuality and paying him £75,000 hush-money not to come out.