The former Wimbledon and England star, John Fashanu, 54, was left in a Nigerian jail with 200 others after being held over an alleged dodgy land deal.
The former Wimbledon and England star spent two days locked up as the police claims he acted as a fixer in a scam to sell plots that were not for sale.
He was arrested at his home at the Sun City Estate, in the Federal capital territory, Abuja, and taken in on suspicion of “criminal conspiracy,” detectives said.
It was alleged that earlier this year, the former I’m a Celeb favourite acted for a friend looking to buy land.
The man claimed he was told by Fashanu of two contacts who would help with buying “forgotten lands” – plots owned by the locals that the state was 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, he found out that, the land was not for sale and not in the hands of local chiefs.
Fashanu, who once fronted Nigeria’s version of Deal or No Deal, was taken before a superintendent to explain himself before being left in a packed prison, police sources said.
Officers are now looking for the other two men said to be involved in the land scam. It is believed they are still in Nigeria, where the average yearly wage is £1,600 (N660,000).
Fashanu has agreed to pay the money back, although he denies wrongdoing.
A source close to the former Gladiators presenter said in Abuja: “This is a business deal between friends that has gone sour 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 installment 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 installment of the money owed.
He said: “The matter is being resolved. He won’t be charged to court that is what I was made to understand. 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.”
Nigerian police Deputy Inspector General, Hyacinth Dagala, said: “John Fashanu was arrested on July 17 in connection with an allegation of criminal conspiracy and obtaining the sum of N9.55 million under false pretense.
“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.”
Fashanu has been a UN ambassador for Nigeria, a Unicef goodwill ambassador for 53 African countries and a former board member of the Nigeria Football Association.
During his playing days, in 1997, he was acquitted in a high-profile match-fixing trial along with goalkeepers Bruce Grobbelaar and Hans Segers. In 2015 he was arrested over an unlicensed gun found in his Nigerian house during a police raid. He ended up paying a fine.